Accessible Retail (AR), the out-of-town trade body, is calling for changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in order to protect retail jobs and make sure retailers have a commercially sustainable trading future.
AR, which represents the property interests of the retail warehousing and retail park sector, says more needs to be done to protect jobs in the out of town retail sector. William McKee, chief executive of AR, said that the sector contributes to sustainable employment, improving skills and helping place-making, and thus is calling for changes to the NPPF.
The AR argues that because retail parks and warehouses are an important source of commercially sustainable and socially inclusive jobs, it should be protected and nurtured in the NPPF and embodied in local plans.
“Continuing to resist traders wanting to relocate to more commercially sustainable locations is likely only to result in their failing as businesses and with them the employment they provide,” said McKee. “This will not help the regeneration of town centres or the revival of the economy, but it will damage maintaining employment and rebuilding the economy.
“Now, though, not only is extension or improvement of retail parks still resisted by planning policy, but existing parks and the employment they provide are under a new threat as local authorities increasingly regard them as under used land suitable for redevelopment for housing.”
Mckee added: “Out of town jobs contribute to social inclusion and to levelling up economic opportunity across the UK – both key government aims.
“The sector comprises mainly the larger companies and multiples which offer a wide range of employment types catering to people of all skill levels with many companies offering apprenticeships and training schemes up to NVQ3.”
The retail warehousing sector has continued to be the most resilient sub-sector throughout the pandemic. In November, research from the Local Data Company H1 survey revealed that retail vacancy rate had reached its highest-ever rate of 14.2%, with shopping centres faring worst at 15.6%, but retail parks were reported as best performing at 8.8%.