Shopping Centre Council backs calls for relaxed retail zoning

The Shopping Centre Council of Australia has backed zoning and planning recommendations by the Productivity Commission aimed at encouraging a more level playing field for all retail formats. 

The Productivity Commission’s final report notes the imbalance between shopping centre landlords and smaller tenants, who have to pay significantly higher rent than anchor tenants due to an imbalance of power and a lack of rental alternatives. 

To address this, the Productivity Commission recommends the broadening of business zones and significantly reducing prescriptive planning requirements to allow all retail formats in existing business zones. 

“We broadly support the commission’s recommendations on planning and zoning,” says Milton Cockburn, executive director of the Shopping Centre Council of Australia. 

“In particular, we are pleased that the commission recognises in its final report that all retail formats have to engage with the planning system and that it is not just a constraint on the so-called ‘new retail formats’. 

Cockburn in particular highlights the final recommendation that “all retail formats” have access to fairer zoning and planning regulations, as opposed to the draft version, which only singled out “new retail” formats. 

As an example, under the recommendation general retail and bulky goods outlets would be treated the same under state and territory planning schemes – meaning no retail format would be able to use planning and zoning regulations to gain a competitive advantage over others. 

“In the longer term, the planning objective should be to have one ‘open zone’ or multiple-use zone where a broad variety of land uses can be considered — such as retail, commercial and even some low-impact industrial uses,” the report says. 

Cockburn says all the other recommendations are directed at facilitating increased retail competition, and “we support this provided it results in all retail formats competing on a level playing field”. 

“We would have liked to see stronger support for activity centres policies (places where retail and commercial activities are combined in one location) and, within that support, particular recommendations for ensuring and increased supply of retail land within those activity centres,” he adds.

 

Larry Schlesinger

Larry Schlesinger

Larry Schlesinger was a property writer at Property Observer

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