Malls' '£2bn parking bonanza'

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The Independent Online

The value of the retail property market could soar by £2bn if controversial car parking charges are introduced at out-of-town shopping centres.

Research by the property services group Donaldsons has concluded that an average centre with 3,000 parking spaces could generate between £4.5m and £6m in additional income every year by charging shoppers to park their cars.

This, it argued, would help add more than £2bn to the value of the retail property market, even if some shoppers decided to stay away as a result.

The Commission for Integrated Transport said last month that the lack of parking charges at shopping centres such as Bluewater in Kent and Meadowhall in Sheffield was contributing to the decline of the high street, as shoppers abandoned town and city centres.

The government body, which is chaired by Peter Hendy, a director at Transport for London, therefore recommended mandatory parking fees be introduced, starting from around £1 an hour. It called for shopping centres to spend some of the cash on improving bus services and access for cyclists and pedestrians.

Shopping centres responded angrily to the proposals, pointing out that people expected free car parking and that any change would be deeply unpopular.

But Bryan Duncan, the head of retail at Donaldsons, said that by opposing the move, landlords could be missing a chance to add value to their developments.

"It's not right to say there will be a major drop-off [in visitors]. Out of town offers something different, and charging a modest amount will not be enough to change that," he said.

"This is already beginning to happen in the US. If they have to pay for parking, people will just add that into the balance."

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