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Planning for Town Centres: Draft Planning Policy Statement 6 (HC 952)

ODPM Committee 20 Jul 2004

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Evidence given by: Rt. Hon John Prescott MP, Deputy Prime Minster and First Secretary of State, Rt. Hon Keith Hill MP, Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Brian Hackland, Director of Planning, Michael Bach, Planning Directorate.

Q37 Mr. David Clelland: How practical is it in most cases to expand town centre boundaries to make way for these large format stores? What are the implications for displacing secondary retailing, residential and business premises and what will that mean for the mixed-use policy which the Minister referred to before?

Mr Prescott: My very competent colleague will answer that!

Keith Hill: Right. Let us begin from where we are at. Our feeling is, as the Deputy Prime Minister said at an earlier stage in the discussion, that all too often local planning authorities have interpreted existing guidance in a somewhat restrictive and negative fashion, in the sense of resisting change, resisting out-of-centre development, using it solely as a tool, as a development control. Now we want to see a much more proactive policy toward developing town centres, to expanding town centres where possible. We believe that is likely to be a successful policy.

Q38 Mr. David Clelland: How many jobs o you have where it is possible. Town centres tend to be fairly restricted. Without demolishing something else to make way for these big stores, how are you going to expand the town centre?

Keith Hill: It is horses for courses, really, is it not, Mr Clelland? I am sure we can all think of town centres which may be constrained in that way - maybe all town falls into that category, I do not know - but I can also think of other English cities, Manchester and Liverpool, for example, come to mind - where it does seem to be that there are clear opportunities for expanding the footprint of town centre development. That is the kind of proactive approach that we want to encourage. Having said that, we do absolutely take the point you make about potential impact on smaller centres. The whole thrust of the document is around regeneration of smaller centres as well. If you like, that represents the next stage in our approach to town centres. We believe that the policy has been very successful in our biggest towns. We want now to encourage regeneration in suburban and estate shopping areas, and also we are looking very much towards encouraging development and regeneration in market towns.

Mr Prescott: It is a very important point - I mean, some cases are too limited and all the compulsory powers and working on brown field is not going to solve that. We are trying to do two things. We have asked the local authorities if they will now look at obviously using land they have but also at accommodating larger stores on what we might call the edge of town centres. This is happening to a certain extent, but, within the boundaries of the local authorities, obviously, for them to have authority, also at the same time to build greater density buildings inside cities. Outside that, these are the things that each authority needs to have: planning for growth as a proper development and offering sites. In offering jobs in the old English estates and that, they would build factories and say, "Right, there is the factory, you can use that and rent it out." They do not think the same way in regard to retail development. I do think they see it now in the regeneration which is taking place in a lot of cities, where you do put the retail and housing and all sorts of things together, but you will have to recognise that in some cases they will go out of centre. I can think of another case without naming them where that was exactly the case, where they wanted to go out of an area into a kind of old market cattle place and moved from one to another. It was just outside the town. If it is not damaging the town, judgements must be made about whether that is a good thing to do. I think in that case it probably is.

This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.

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