Commission recommends encouraging shoppers back to town centres
A Government-sponsored report has called for free parking at out-of-town shopping centres to be abolished.

The Commission for Integrated Transport (CfIT) report called for a 'levelling of the playing field' for parking charges between town centres and out-of-town shopping centres to reduce pollution and encourage people back into the town centres.

Among other recommendations, the CfIT said city centres should be given precedence in future planning decisions to encourage more shopping around public transport hubs and in densely populated areas.

The report also proposed the introduction of congestion charging on busy routes to retail parks.

Commission member Helen Holland said: 'The Commission recognises that for some shopping trips such as the weekly grocery shop, the car is the most convenient option, but this level of car use is simply not sustainable in the long-term. We want to see local authorities, retailers and transport operators taking the right decisions to support the high street. Out-of-town shopping centres surrounded by gridlock and irate shoppers will not help anyone - least of all the retailers.'

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) branded the report as 'anti-motorist and anti-business'.

BRC director-general Kevin Hawkins said: 'Most of these recommendations are ideologically driven and nothing to do with helping customers or encouraging businesses to thrive. Out-of-town sites give retailers the scale of premises they need and customers the accessibility they want.'

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) welcomed the report's recommendations. ACS director of public affairs James Lowman said: 'It does not make sense that those customers who want to use local shops are faced with heavy parking charges while supermarkets take advantage of offering no charge. We believe this is a distortion of the market and the Government needs to act now to remedy this situation.'