“GREEDY councils were last night urged to slash high street parking rates to a token £1 to stop town centres turning into “ghost towns”.
A retail veteran said town halls should introduce the nominal charge for the first two hours of parking in a radical 25-point plan to revive the retail sector.
The charging regime could be backed by Government legislation.
Bill Grimsey – ex boss of Wickes and Iceland – also demanded the “broken” business rate regime be scrapped altogether as he blamed the eye-watering tax for the biggest wave of shop job losses since the credit crisis.
He called for business rates to be replaced by a 2 per cent sales tax that would cover “bricks and mortar” chains such as Tesco as well as online giants such as Amazon.
And he called for Theresa May to create a new Town Centre Commission to develop a 20-year strategy.
He said: “The first six months of 2018 have seen the highest rate of retail closures, administrations for more than a decade and there is no sign of a slowdown.
“Our cities, towns and communities are facing their greatest challenge in history, which is how to remain relevant, and economically and socially viable in the 21st century.”
Speaking at the Local Government Association today, the retail veteran will say the days of shops ‘anchoring’ high streets were now gone as shopping habits change.
And he called on Government to change planning laws to bring in more housing and offices.
Libraries and public spaces should be at the heart of each community, Mr Grimsey said. He added that the vacancy rate – or proportion of empty shops – in towns such as Morecambe was now 30 per cent.
Councils trousered a whopping £820 million-worth of profit from parking and fines in 2016-2017.
The Local Government Association claims the so-called parking charge surplus is spent on “essential transport projects”. But a report in April ranked Britain’s roads 27th worst in the world – below Chile, Cyprus and Oman.
Under Mr Grimsey’s plans, councils would charge a nominal £1 for the first two hours of parking in town centres – while introducing 30 minutes free parking in high streets.”