Sainsbury's boss says red tape harming high street

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The Independent Online

Justin King, chief executive of Sainsbury's, has given a damning assessment of what has gone wrong with the UK's high streets when the Government is engaged in a major consultation exercise that could ease rules on out-of-town development.

He said high-street operators face a wide range of problems, including a lack of affordable car parking, one-way streets and red tape. Mr King said: "Our high streets are suffering because they have been made environments where it is less and less amenable for shoppers to shop. They are harder to get to than they have ever been."

He added: "Many of our town centres now have transport, planning and parking restrictions, and one-way systems and red tape. Parking is less accessible and casual car parking is punished, such as people not being able to park outside a store to pop in for something for 10 minutes."

The Local Data Company last week said 14.5 per cent of UK town centre shops are empty, but in large centres like Blackpool, Grimsby and Stockport, this figure is more than a quarter.

Mr King's comments came ahead of a major consultation on the planning system that ends next month and Mary Portas, who has been appointed to lead the Government's review of the high street, delivers her report in November.

Ms Portas said last week that she was considering writing to David Cameron to raise opposition to the expectation that the National Planning Policy Framework could recommend relaxing the "town centre first policy", which means developers can build out-of-town schemes only if no town centre options are available.