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Research shows rentals rise

Cafes and convenience stores help high streets recover

Project CoffeeCoffee shops, bars and convenience stores have played a big part in the slow recovery of Scotland’s high streets.

New research shows after a sharp drop between 2007 and 2014 rental values are rising again and investors are being attracted by higher yields.

Richard Slipper, a senior executive at the firm, said it is pleasing to see the downward trend beginning to reverse.

“Scotland now has some important city centre developments to deliver from pipeline to actual build,” he said. “There are other positive signs of more active high streets through the increasing use of services.

“However, there is a clear need for councils to update policies in their development plans to allow greater flexibility to accommodate footfall generating non-retail uses and to be more proactive to assist in delivering new sites in established centres.”

According to GVA’s floorspace analysis, convenience stores have taken more space, particularly in smaller towns, while there has been a marked increase in restaurants, cafes and bars, now accounting for a fifth, or 20%, of shopping space across Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee.

However, the report warns of declining new space. Across the 32 planning authorities, there is  just over 1 million sq m in the pipeline – the lowest level since 2009.

Mr Slipper said: “This reflects an acceleration of projects towards completion and a relative decline in the stacking of consented space in the pipeline.

“In addition, the convenience supermarket ‘race for space’ has effectively been halted in the wake of changing market conditions and increased competition from discounters.”

One of the key issues to emerge from the research is the increasingly important role of non-traditional town centres.

Over the past 20 years, satellite centres have emerged across the large conurbations and some of these now form an urban centre in their own right through the development plan allocations in the planning system.  While others have been the subject of efforts to achieve higher level status, Slipper adds that overall planning controls continue to favour the traditional city centre.

“This is likely to shape the strategic network in larger urban areas in the coming years, with a continued reassessment of the traditional high street-based centre against the satellite mall-based centre.  Improved retail parks, with their mixed uses and other facilities, may also start to assert their locational credentials in the development plan context.”

Following the 2013 Scottish Government-backed National Review of Town Centres Slipper says there is now an opportunity to develop this momentum with more initiatives through public/private sector partnerships to improve prime pitch, land assembly for new high street developments and other specific initiatives through the local development plans.

“This will also challenge the traditional approach to ‘retail only’ frontage policies and should stretch local authorities to look for a richer mix of different uses in high streets in future national planning and development plan policies.”

Photo: Project Coffee, Bruntsfield, Edinburgh (by Terry Murden)

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