Councils 'ignoring town centre policy'

Retailers have today slammed the governments’ “town centre first policy” ahead of a select committee inquiry and claim councils are ignoring planning guidance.

The Association of Convenience Stores compiled research to show that since the new national planning policy framework came into effect, 76 per cent of approved floor space was located out of town. This is despite the government’s planning guidance that came in to effect in 2012 that was designed to consider the impact of out of town developments on town centres.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: "'Town centre first' has become a slogan rather than a planning policy. It is not being properly applied by many councils, and the Government is not defending it.  As a result, we are seeing a wave of approvals for out of town developments that will damage high streets.”

However planning experts in favour of government policy have highlighted that the number of new developments will be skewed to out of town locations as existing town centres are already built and overall fewer new developments are being built on the high street as they are already developed.

A spokesman for the department for Communities and Local Government defended its stance and said it is relaxing planning permission for in town developments as well as urging change on overzealous parking policies that deter shoppers to high streets. He said: “National planning policy gives councils the power to reject inappropriate out of town development. Councils should be held to account for their local planning decisions.”

The ACS submitted its findings to the Communities and Local Government Select Committee inquiry called 'Operation of the National Planning Policy Framework' last week.

The select committee will start to review submissions today and a hearing will be held later this year.

The ACS said it is calling for the Government to “fully support high streets and local centres via the planning system” and has called for government to introduce a central monitoring framework that shows where new developments are located.

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