Retail parks in the community: Improving social value

As property investors and retailers race to become more sustainable, property managers like MAPP, have recently found themselves tasked with targets to improve their client's green credentials.

Sustainability incorporates a multitude of factors, not just environmental measures and corporate governance, but also working to improve social value. So how can you manage a property such as a retail park and make a difference to the local community … and why now?

In times gone by, the retail park often sat in a quiet part of town away from the hustle and bustle of the local community’s high street. The typical retail park started out being occupied mainly by furniture, DIY and white goods retailers, reached only by car and relatively infrequently per customer.

Times have changed, and in 2020 alone B&M, for instance, increased their size by almost half a million sq ft in retail parks, becoming the second largest occupier (by floor space) in UK retail parks (Source: Trevor Wood Associates). This general change in use, along with improved transport links has changed the dynamic of the retail park and the places are now becoming much more frequently used by the local community.

At MAPP, we have been working with our clients and occupiers to improve what properties have to offer to the public and their occupiers. We have placed a great deal of importance on the social value side of sustainability at MAPP in what we call Version 2.0.

MAPP have done lots to enable retail parks to be places that are better for everyone, these include:
  • Installing defibrillators, recycling bins, and community noticeboards.
  • Encouraging local entrepreneurship by providing opportunities for people within the community to operate small kiosks.
  • Focusing on cancer awareness through Macmillan Cancer information buses.
  • Facilitating mobile Covid-19 testing sites.
  • Providing a drop-in Covid safety advice centre for businesses with local councils.
  • A fire brigade has demonstrated fitting car seats safely, and carried out charity car washes for a local cause.
  • A site has been used as part of wildlife nature trails with the Wildflower Trust.
  • Allowing the local fire services to carry out training exercises in empty units.
  • Setting up short wave radio systems for the store staff.
  • Attending community partnership meetings in the local areas.
  • Arranging for mobile libraries to come to sites.
  • Working with police to help with crime reduction on retail parks.
  • Providing drinking fountains, and bicycle repair kit stations.
  • And we have provided space for various charities to fundraise. Not to mention, adding in cycle racks and EV car charging points.

The point about the social value work on properties where there is public realm is that there are often many low or no-cost activities that can be done, especially when you work with local services and businesses. The pressure on purse strings therefore does not have to be great to achieve an improvement in the welfare of the public visiting your sites.

These activities all count towards working to improve your client’s and occupier’s sustainability targets.

If you are interested in learning more, please contact Kate Irlam at kate.irlam@wearemapp.com