Letter: Pros and cons of the out-of-town superstore

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The Independent Online
Sir: It takes a somewhat blinkered analysis of the Consumers' Association survey of consumers' attitudes to out-of-town shopping centres to conclude that Britain is 'saturated with superstores' (report, 5 May).

The fact is that if superstores built by the likes of Sainsbury, Tesco and Safeway were unnecessary or superfluous, then no one would shop in them. This is clearly not the case.

Our 'snapshot' survey of attitudes nationally found that 39 per cent of those consulted would be against out-of-town development if it meant a loss of town centre shops - but, perhaps surprisingly, 49 per cent did not have views either way.

This is hardly a wholehearted mandate to block the future development of out-of-town superstores. And, as we pointed out to the Commons environment committee this week, common sense dictates that obstructing out-of-town development cannot guarantee a flourishing town centre; town centres will survive only if they provide shoppers with what they want and need.

Astonishingly, local authorities are not obliged by the latest Government planning guidelines to seek out local consumers' views in any detail. If our survey suggests anything, it is that planning decisions need to be taken after extensive public consultation. We look forward to that.

Yours faithfully,

DEREK PRENTICE

Assistant Director

Consumers' Association

London, NW1

6 May

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