Shopping centre company attacks government plan: Out-of-town crackdown 'will not cut car use'

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The Independent Online
CAPITAL Shopping Centres, the recently floated retail property investor, yesterday announced the early retirement of its chief executive Brian Jolly on health grounds. He had been with company for 20 years before falling ill last month.

The company also attacked the Government for issuing planning guidance that it said would fail to reduce the environmental damage caused by unnecessary car use.

Donny Gordon, CSC's chairman, said the clampdown initiated by former Environment Secretary, John Gummer, would not stop consumers travelling by car to find attractive shopping centres.

'Where high streets are inadequate to service the needs of the consumer, business will simply flow from the inaccessible high street to other more convenient locations, whether that be another town centre or an edge-of-town or out-of-town location,' he said.

Since the DoE issued the guidance notes, PPG6 and PPG13, last year, a number of schemes have failed to gain approval, including a planned 1 million sq ft (93,000 sq m) shopping centre at Dumplington, on the edge of Manchester.

Mr Gordon called on the Government to create a stable and consistent planning regime to help the industry cope with the long time- scales involved in developing and maturing large shopping centres.

His comments accompanied CSC's first interim figures since its flotation in March, when it was spun off from Transatlantic, the insurance and property group.

Half-time results showed profits before tax of pounds 8.3m and earnings per share of 1.9p.

As forecast at the flotation, there is no interim dividend, although a full-year payout of 5p is promised.

CSC's largest asset is the Lakeside centre at Thurrock in Essex, which represents more than half the company's portfolio by value.

Income during the six months rose by 18 per cent, with pedestrian flow and car park use improving.

Mr Gordon said that new Sunday-trading legislation meant Lakeside would open on that day from the end of August. He added that a strategy for Capital's in- town centres was still being finalised, but they would all open in the run-up to Christmas.

The shares, which have been poor performers since flotation, closed 2p lower at 225p.