L&G is considering 15 areas for PRS, says Bill Hughes

L&G: UK funds badly configured

Paul Unger

Bill Hughes, managing director of Legal & General Property, told guests at a fringe event to this week's Labour Party Conference in Manchester the institutional investment industry was not configured properly for the 21st Century.

Hughes said L&G, which has £15bn invested in UK property, used to be 95% invested in retail, industrial and offices because of the income security of long-term leases. But that has changed with the arrival of online commerce and shorter leases and left the fund community looking "unconfigured for the 21st century". "We've done a bad job of investing in real estate," said Hughes, addressing guests at Bridgewater Hall at a debate organised by Barton Willmore and the British Property Federation.

Hughes, president of the British Property Federation, said investors needed to look at "housing, healthcare, urban environments in totality, the whole of the built environment", and not just single commercial assets.

In answer to a question about what a new government should do in the first 100 days after next year's general election to improve property, Hughes said local authorities should be empowered "to be able to deal with fragmented ownership and assist development," especially recycling sites with existing poor quality buildings on them. "The UK is not over-developed, it is under-demolished", he said.

He also suggested private money could be injected into training council planning staff to help address the skills shortage in local government. Finally, he suggested the over-65s be exempt from stamp duty to encourage people out of large houses that are too big for their requirements.

Also speaking at the fringe event were David Partridge, managing partner of developer Argent, and Cllr Paul Watson, vice-chairman of the city regions board of the Local Government association and kleader of Sunderland City Council. The event was chaired by Dan Mitchell, partner at Barton Willmore's Manchester office.

Other suggestions from the panellists included creating a national development plan, extending permitted development rights to "oil the wheels of property", using domestic rates to underwrite council borrowing for infrastructure projects, and not enforcing rental controls on the residential sector.

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