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Portas retailing report published

Last May, with town centre vacancy rates doubling in the space of two years, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister asked retailing expert Mary Portas to look into how we can create more prosperous and diverse high streets. Her report is published today by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, together with a supplementary document with the title Understanding High Street Performance, of which the Executive Summary is available here.

Our shopping habits have been changing for the past fifty years. Most of us drive to the shops instead of walking or going on public transport, whilst the spread of the internet has led to an increase in mail-order shopping. We would say only this. Until existing taxes are substantially replaced by a tax on the annual rental value of land, the property market will respond sluggishly to these kind of changes, whilst interventions such as grants, subsidies, tax reliefs, assistance for business people or environmental improvements will be almost entirely captured by landowners in the form of higher rents.

Until this is clearly understood by those responsible for formulating policy, it will be impossible to develop cost-effective solutions to problems of this kind.