High street tsar Mary Portas will recommend legislation to force landlords and banks to be more flexible about bringing empty shops back into use, she said this week.

Speaking to Retail Week in Rotherham, Portas – who is researching her report for the Government ahead of publication in November – said that while some property owners are being flexible, legislation was going to be needed to ensure shops would not lie empty.

“It’s legislation that we’ll have to look at,” Portas said. “It will be part of my recommendations, there’ll be something on that. I don’t know exactly what it will be as yet.”

While larger landlords are working hard to be more responsive, in secondary locations it is proving hard to fill empty shops, partly because landlords refuse to accept lower rents, and partly because prospective purchasers can’t get finance.

“Where it gets to be a real problem is where the properties are owned by banks and half of them don’t even know they’ve got it in their portfolio,” said Portas, adding that in Rotherham she’d seen “three properties this guy’s buying and they’ve been derelict for 20 years and the bank’s saying you can only buy them if you can show us the next 15 years of leasing and renting. Who could show that in today’s climate?”