Mary Portas reforms: Nightime deliveries, a tax on car parks, new planning regulations

Let lorries deliver at night, tax out-of-town car parks and restrict retailers from choosing out-of-town units are some of 30 reforms suggested by Mary Portas this week

Mary Portas, Queen of Shops

The reforms come off the back of a review, led by the retail consultant turned TV presenter, into the future of the British high street. David Cameron appointed Portas in May. Her remit included exploring new business models for high streets with the view to recommend government action by autumn 2011.

The prime minister is expected to announce this week actions put forward by Portas – who is also known as Mary Queen of Shops, after her TV series of the same name.

A repeal of the current night time ban on deliveries is expected to be announced. Currently there are strict regulations prohibiting heavy good vehicles (HGVs) from making deliveries at night time. Lifting some of these restrictions would make a “flexible, attractive, business environment,” Cameron is expected to say.

Incidentally, cycling campaigners have also been calling for a review on when HGVs can make deliveries following the recent spate of cycling deaths linked with HGVs.

A “town centre first” policy is expected to be announced. This would include planning controls that would make it harder for retailers to choose out-of-town units where in town spaces were sufficient.  According to the Daily Telegraph Portas had suggested a moratorium on all out-of-town development by large property companies but the proposal has been vetoed already.   

A tax on car parks that offer free parking is also to be suggested, but details of this are sketchy.

Portas’ review, which comes under Vince Cable’s Business Innovation and Skills Department, also includes the suggestion of a ‘National Market Day’ to promote market stalls.

Her review is expected to say: “On a market stall people can try out their ideas and get their business booming without too much cost. It’s great for our town centres too, bringing in fresh ideas and products and preserving our nation’s cultural heritage.”

While more and more high street brands announcing profit warnings and being taken into administration – including the shoe shop Barratts and Habitat earlier this year – the coalition is desperate to be seen to be actively doing something for British retailers.

Portas’ proposals number more than 30 in total and come at a crucial moment for London, with Westminster Council embroiled in a dispute over proposed parking charges thought to cost the businesses as much as £80m and reports that shoppers spent £20m less this weekend than last year.

The weekend is traditionally marked as one of the busiest in retailers’ calendars as consumers prepare for Christmas.  

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