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Planning: Town Centres

Volume 703: debated on Thursday 10 July 2008

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government (Hazel Blears) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today publishing a consultation on proposals to improve Planning Policy Statement 6: Planning for town centres (PPS6). Copies of the consultation are being placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Busy town centres, with a wide range of shops, are vital to communities large and small, rural and urban. For more than a decade, government planning policy has been designed to ensure the vitality and viability of town centres is promoted.

Today, there is more retail development in and around our town centres than at any time during the past 10 years. But we cannot be complacent, particularly in the current economic climate. Evidence shows that there is scope to refine the policy and make it more effective.

In last year’s planning White Paper, Planning for a Sustainable Future, the Government committed to consulting on changes to PPS6. In this consultation, we are setting out our proposals in detail.

The proposals reinforce the town-centre-first approach to ensure that development continues to take place in town centres and promotes their vitality, viability and character. We will retain the sequential test which requires developers to justify why they cannot build in the centre before they seek to build out of town.

The proposals remove the need test for proposals outside town centres—which has been shown to be a blunt tool—and introduce a new and broader impact test to take better account of economic, social and environmental factors.

The proposals also link design quality and climate change considerations to the impact test, ensuring that developments are better designed and greener.

Alongside these changes, the consultation makes clear that policy will continue to reinforce the principle that development should be accessible by a range of transport modes; that it should promote greater consumer choice and retail diversity; and, that it should encourage investment and job creation in disadvantaged areas.

Our amendments do not include any specific policy proposals for taking forward the proposed planning competition test for large grocery stores which was recommended by the Competition Commission in its final report on The supply of groceries in the UK market investigation (April 2008). The Government will be responding separately on this shortly.

The proposed changes I am setting out today will play a part in helping our town centres thrive for years to come. I welcome comments by 3 October 2008.