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LONDON-The slump in retail and falling occupier demand could leave much of the UK’s retail development pipeline redundant, says Bob de Barr. Speaking at the British Council of Shopping Centres conference here, de Barr, who is president of the BCSC, warned that the challenges facing the retail industry could spell disaster for developers with plans to build and let.

“Retailers are suffering, the high street is grim and the feel-good factor has gone,” he said. He added that with property, staffing and energy costs all rising, retailers were becoming increasingly selective when choosing new stores, which signalled more difficult times ahead for developers and building owners.De Bar quoted a BCSC report commissioned from Lunson Mitchenall that found that the UK has a development pipeline of 50 million sf, with 16.6 million feet currently under construction and another 13.5 million sf with planning consent. Stuart Rose, chief executive of Marks & Spencer, agreed that the level of development under construction or in various stages of the planning process did not match demand. “They are piling on space faster than the market needs,” he said.

However, de Barr was optimistic that the industry would adapt to the downturn in the retail sector. “We should be pulling back, but we know that these things are cyclical, and we know that we will weather the storm,” he said. According to Lunson Mitchenall’s report, the Midlands has the largest amount of development in the pipeline, with close to 6.5 million feet, either planned or moving dirt.

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