The Telegraph and The Guardian are reporting that window display expert Mary Portas is to argue that car parking at out of town shopping centres should be taxed to level the playing field with city centre shops. On Twitter, Portas said: "I’m surprised at that. Because I don’t."
Portas is now known as a television retail pundit, but she has pre-TV gravitas: she was responsible for making London department store Harvey Nichols into a retail icon.
She was commissioned to compile a Government-sponsored retail report in May. The report is released tomorrow and Portas is expected to make 30 recommendations. She will call for a bonfire of red tape.
Prime minister David Cameron had said he hoped the review would help "create vibrant and diverse town centres and bring back the bustle to our high streets."
Portas is expected to recommend planning policy incentives to lure retailers back to the high street.
She will also recommend more ‘street parties’ at key times. This involves taking cars out of the equation, which is one of the key plus points of out-of-town shopping centres, where cars are stored away and people shop on foot.
It’s unknown whether Portas will recommend closing more streets to motorised traffic.
Such measures are good for trade. On Sunday, Oxford Street and Regent Street in London were closed to traffic by Westminster council because of safety concerns for pedestrians. The shops on those West End streets reported a record trading period.
However, The Telegraph reports that one of Portas’ recommendations is more free car parking for shoppers. This might seem attractive but the unintended consequence is, of course, city centres choked with motorised traffic.