High street planners and BID management teams are among many entities that struggle with the ever-changing face of the high street.

With the retail landscape morphing; large chains and independent shops going out of business, and the increasing number of eateries opening up, it can be hard to keep track of what’s what and who’s who – critical for BIDs depending on levies and councils counting on business rates.

Often, BIDs struggle to find out the true owners of a property, perhaps to discuss covering a vacant property or install Christmas lights. Often, the owner is located offshore, making effective communications even more difficult.

Sometimes, even getting a reliable list of levy payers can be a problem. Councils are often reactive and don’t always have up-to-date records of occupiers.

Increasingly, vacancies, permitted development rights, and use classes are focal points in the ongoing High Street debates. Accurate, current data is key for these conversations.

This is not a new problem, but it is a problem that appears to be getting worse. Mentioned in a number of high street studies, including as far back as Portas’ review in 2011, what is severely lacking is an accessible database of properties and owners. The Land Registry charges for detailed property information; reference numbers for properties are owned by Ordnance Survey and partners, who may charge upwards of £20,000 for access, and estate agents call on third-parties for data and commercial property information.

So, with so many expensive database restrictions, how can councils and BIDs go about planning and budgeting their daily business?! How can we continue to have fruitful discussions on town planning and high street evolution, when we don’t really know what we’re looking at?

We suspect and hope our property app is a way forwards in this universal challenge and are cherishing the opportunity to spread the word. We’re delighted to say that, so far, we have travelled the length and breadth of Great Britain, sharing our findings, so time will tell.

If your council or town/city centre could benefit from knowing more about the make up of your high street inventory, we’d be pleased to have a chat.

Sven Latham

Sven Latham

Stares at spreadsheets for a living