Drive to revitalise town centres

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The Independent Online
The Government wants to encourage shoppers to drive in to town centres to revitalise and sustain these areas, John Gummer, Secretary of State for the Environment, said yesterday.

He wants shoppers to have ample car parking space near high street shops, and for the private sector, rather than local councils, to run the car parks. "We must ensure that town centres do not exclude motorists," he said. His speech, at a Department of the Environment town planning conference in London, was seen as an attempt to calm fears that the Government is moving against private car use in city centres.

The department recently issued formal planning guidance to local councils and developers which asks them not to allow developments that are only accessible to motorists, and to put a new emphasis on attracting shoppers and residents back to city centres.Mr Gummer said that he would soon be issuing further guidance to make it clear shoppers should not be discouraged from driving in.

Afterwards he explained that alternatives should also be planned for, such as cycling and measures which are "bus friendly''. He emphasised that car-driving commuters should be discouraged. Car parking tariffs should be organised to penalise people who left their vehicle parked for an entire working day.

The private sector was inherently superior to local councils in providing safe, clean, attractive city-centre car parks. "We must not judge the multi-storey car park by the evidence of the rundown, the smelly and the uncared for," he said in his speech. "It must be in the hands of the developers or the retailers - those whose existence depends on its effectiveness."

Yesterday's seminar was a follow-up to Mr Gummer's initiative early this year aimed at encouraging high-quality town planning and architecture. It's centrepiece is a short, glossy "discussion document'' packed with colour photographs of urban and rural scenes and buildings that are widely regarded as being of high quality.