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Town Centres

Volume 553: debated on Monday 12 November 2012

Before I reply, I am sure that the whole House will join me in congratulating my right hon. Friend on his recent appointment to the Privy Council.

The Government have recently announced support to help revitalise more than 300 town centres in England through the town team partners scheme, which is in addition to the 27 Portas pilots that were announced in the summer. Building on this year’s success, we are delighted to announce another “Love your local market” campaign for next May.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his kind remarks and for his answer.

Our town centres need to adapt to changing times and circumstances, and in particular the fact that we have an ageing society and growing numbers of people who suffer from dementia. The Prime Minister identified dementia as one of the Government’s key priorities, and the Government are working with the Alzheimer’s Society through the dementia challenge. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that his Department works with the Alzheimer’s Society to ensure that our town centres are dementia friendly?

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his advocacy of the rights of people with dementia, and on his work in that field. He will be delighted to know that a couple of days ago the Prime Minister received the latest report on this issue, and I can announce that more than 20 cities, towns and villages have already signed up to become more dementia friendly. We are working with a wide range of groups within society, including leading businesses, high street banks and others, to find ways of going still further. For example, Tesco supermarket is training its staff to provide better support for customers with dementia, as are many of our banks.

Will the Minister condemn the disruption caused by far-right groups that, twice in the past month, have brought their extreme and racist demonstrations into Rotherham town centre, landing us with a bill of half a million pounds in policing costs and lost trade?

I certainly do condemn that, and I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for raising the issue. The Department is taking a lot of steps to bring communities together, and we will shortly be announcing further funding for further such measures. The right hon. Gentleman will be delighted to know that only a few days ago, my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister announced a further £214,000 for the “TELL MAMA” campaign, which is about reporting acts of anti-Muslim hatred.

People are delighted that Desborough and Kettering town centres are newly designated town team partners. When might they expect to receive the extra funding that goes with that designation?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his campaign to achieve that success for his constituents. The money available is £10,000, and some of the 300 successful towns have already received those funds. If the cheque is not quite in the post, I assure him that it will be fairly soon.

Are not the Government’s attempts to revive town centres undone by the appalling Growth and Infrastructure Bill, which allows major out-of-town retail parks to be designated of national significance? When will we have clear guidance and joined-up thinking on our town centres?

The hon. Gentleman is simply wrong. The national planning policy framework has a clear “town centre first” policy, and the Department is putting a large amount of funding into measures such as the Portas pilots schemes—and many others—to provide support for our town centres. The Government are supporting town centres, which have experienced real problems given the disastrous situation in which this country’s economy was left.