The Chancellor of the Exchequer's Budget announcement regarding retail use class properties brings welcome news for many occupiers and landlords, in the short term, but all operators in the sector know they have to tailor their high street offering to meet our changing shopping and leisure habits if they are to prosper.

That's the verdict of the retail and leisure sector specialist agents of Barker Storey Matthews in reviewing the Chancellor's announcement of a package of measures designed to assist up to 90 per cent of all independent shop, restaurant and public house operators in England.

The headline-grabbing measure is the reduction of business rates by one third for two years for traders in properties with a rateable value of up to £51,000. This is a short term measure from next year (2019) until 2021 only.

While broadly welcoming this measure as assisting with the marketability of vacant properties in the retail use class and also acknowledging it may well assist with a limited uplift on rents in some locations, Barker Storey Matthews is keen that occupiers and landlords take a measured view because of the temporary timescale.

The second Budget measure designed to help the high street aims to make it easier to re-purpose retail use class properties for residential or commercial office use.  This will be welcomed by some landlords but, cautions Barker Storey Matthews, many retail properties are owned by institutional pension funds who are not legally permitted to hold residential properties in their portfolios.

Commenting on these specific measures in the Chancellor's Budget statement, Julian Welch, Barker Storey Matthews' retail specialist, based in its headquarters in Peterborough, said, "Taking units out of retail circulation could suit some landlords.  Making it easier to change use from retail to residential may well appeal to owners in peripheral trading areas - away from key central town and city centre shopping areas. 

"However, there is a cultural mindset about living in such areas that remains to be addressed when assessing the viability of this measure.

"Business rates relief will never be unpopular so the latest measure announced in the Budget will definitely assist current operators and may well encourage new traders.  Yet all will be mindful of the short term nature of the measure.  It is certainly helpful in the present climate but only in a limited way and for a limited time. 

"Any measures to help high street landlords and occupiers are to be welcomed at a time when our high streets are adjusting to the reality of retail in the modern era."

For more information on commercial property in the retail and leisure sector, contact Julian Welch at Barker Storey Matthews' Peterborough office, tel 01733 897722, jw@bsm.uk.com or see bsm.uk.com.