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Shoosmiths part of coalition launching new plans for town centre revival

Shoosmiths is backing new plans to deliver a high street revival.

The law firm is part of a coalition of retailers, local authorities, landlords, investors and community organisations, working together with Radix think tank, to publish a set of proposals seeking to drive positive social change on high streets and in town centres.

The coalition includes the British Property Federation, charitable trust Power to Change, local government network, New Local, Radix and members of the High Street Taskforce.

The report, A Platform for Places, features a set of proposals to promote localised partnerships between social enterprises, councils and landlords, create a High Street Buyout Fund and give social enterprises support to identify new uses for empty high street buildings - bringing businesses back to failing high streets.

The paper is the first initiative of the cross-sector coalition, Platform Places, launching later this summer. It aims to be a catalyst to encourage communities, property owners, investors and local and national government to work together in partnership.

The report’s proposals are based on bringing to scale successful case studies from Oxfordshire, Sheffield, Belfast, Islington, Plymouth and elsewhere.

Proposals

  • The creation of a High Street Buyout fund to help communities move at the pace of the market to purchase empty high street property and build long-term resilience in town centres

  • A specific business rates relief for regulated socially-trading organisations (Community Interest Companies and Community Benefit Societies), set at a minimum of 50 per cent of their business rates bill
     
  • A proposal that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities directs local authorities to adopt community lettings policies to enable council property teams to lease or sell assets on favourable terms, to support local social enterprise
     
  • Growing the Heritage Development Trust, piloted by the Historic Coventry Trust, to use historic assets to revitalise high streets - modelled on the Scottish Land Fund
     
  • A consultation process around Community Right to Buy, to help community groups purchase long-term vacant or derelict property (as in Scotland), with suitable protections for landowners
     
  • Support, as a last resort, for councils to use CPOs to tackle buildings that are long-term vacant or derelict without a valid reason 

Leading Shoosmiths’ contribution to the report and its role as part of the cross-sector coalition were real estate partners Nathan Rees, Kirsty Black and Ellis Gardner-Browne.

Nathan Rees, real estate partner at Shoosmiths, said: 
 
“The aim of Platform for Places is to put forward workable solutions for revitalising our high streets – maximising the power of real estate and driving economic growth. This hinges on successfully bringing together public and private partners and ensuring that the proposals put forward are commercially viable for landlords and investors, as well as community-led or smaller businesses that can maximise under-utilised or vacant assets.”
 
Kirsty Black
, Shoosmiths partner and real estate disputes specialist, added:
 
“The proposals presented in this report – through working examples – are centred on collaboration, social value and mutual benefit. 

“The featured case studies show that social value and commercial success are not mutually exclusive, but closely linked, and how, by opening up town centre and high street properties to a more diverse range of occupiers, landlords and investors can meet certain environmental, social and governance agendas, while contributing to business success.

“We are keen to see a joined up, future-proofed vision come to fruition, one that allows everyone to gain from creating more accessible and prosperous urban centres.”

Ellis Gardner-Browne, real estate partner at Shoosmiths, also commented:

“Shoosmiths is heavily invested in the issue of urban revival. We recognise the important role our high streets and town centres play as economic, social and community hubs. That’s why it’s critical that more is done to support their revival and growth.

“This isn’t all about altruism, though. The coalition is putting forward workable solutions that encourage footfall by unlocking access to properties – enabling businesses, landlords, investors and local authorities to benefit from thriving new places and partnerships.”

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Commenting on the report’s recommendations, Radix CEO, Ben Rich, said:

“A Platform for Places is a new community-led strategy to revive our high streets, based on practical experience of what works. It is led from the bottom up, but the opportunity exists for the government to turbocharge its impact by taking on board these proposals to bring vibrancy, increased footfall and new revenue to struggling town centres.”

Platform Places convenor, Rebecca Trevalyan, said:
 
“From community kitchens to music and arts venues, co-working spaces to local radio stations, community-led wind and solar projects to boxing gyms – these businesses bring town centres to life.  
 
“There’s no other forum that will bring local social enterprises like these together with council leaders and national property owners and investors. So as to infuse neighbourhoods with a strong sense of purpose.
 
“We’re excited to be bringing together these unlikely allies in town centres around the UK – to unlock underused buildings for amazing ideas.”

Platform Places will be a new social enterprise designed through dialogue between asset owners, councils and community entrepreneurs. Its coalition comprises:

  • Alice Fung, Mayor's Design Advocate (Mayor of London) 
  • Allison Herbert CEO of Bath BID 
  • Ben Rich CEO, Radix Big Tent 
  • Candice Lemaitre Commercial Development Innovation Lead at Transport of London 
  • Dan Thompson, Writer, artist, and founder of the Empty Shops Network 
  • David Boyle Policy Director, Radix Big Tent
  • Ellis Gardner-Browne Partner, Shoosmiths 
  • Emily Vermont Founder and CEO of Indirock 
  • Frances Northrop Associate Fellow, Local Economies at New Economics Foundation
  • Gareth I Jones CEO & Co-founder of TownSq 
  • Ion Fletcher, Director of Policy, British Property Federation 
  • Karen Houghton, Regeneration Programme Manager, St Helens Council 
  • Cllr Kemi Akinola,Deputy Leader of Wandsworth Council
  • Kirsty Black Partner, Shoosmiths 
  • Liam Kelly, CEO, Make CIC, non-executive director, Magenta Living 
  • Mark Robinson, Chair of High Streets Task Force, Co-founder of Ellandi 
  • Matt Soffair, Research Manager, Legal & General Investment Management, Real Assets 
  • Nalin Seneviratne, former Director of City Centre Development, Sheffield City Council 
  • Natasha Ley, Communications Manager, Power to Change 
  • Nathan Rees Partner, Shoosmiths 
  • Nick Plumb, Policy Manager, Power to Change, High Streets Task Force board member 
  • Pawda Tjoa Senior Researcher, New Local 
  • Philip Brimley MRICS, Head of Property, Gascoyne Estates 
  • Stephen Martin, Senior Estate Manager, Boots 
  • Theo Michell Principal, Bywater Properties 
  • Tim Vaughan CEO, Moorgarth 
  • Vidhya Alakeson, former CEO of Power to Change 

Convenor and facilitator 

  • Rebecca Trevalyan, co-founder of Library of Things

Disclaimer

This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2022.

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