Place Pessimism

We have just heard from Marcus Jones, MP, Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Town Centres.

He reviewed the government’s actions and plans for the country’s 5400 “High Streets”. I have made fairly copious notes, but feel if I promote the positive measures he discussed through this blog it will distract me from the “elephant in the room” which is the National Planning Policy Framework, and the requirement for Local Authorities to allocate suitable sites to retail and leisure of a ‘scale and type that is required’.

On the one hand Marcus talked about vital and viable town centres and the problems of clone towns. But he also talked about ‘positive planning and growth’ – or in other words not saying no and that bigger is better.

There is a tension between growth and diversity. We heard from one of the delegates who said his independent retailers on Portobello Road were being squeezed out by multiples, buying up adjacent units and joining them up, to change the scale of the offer.

Small becomes big. It’s growth – but it changes the nature of a place. No amount of small business rate relief or other ‘fiddling around the edges’ measures are going to stop town centre homogenisation.

I don’t doubt that there are opportunities in the Localism Bill and proposed changes to national planning for local places to have more autonomy over decision making. But how many places will be mobilised and knowledgeable enough to take advantage of these things?

There’s still time to take part in the Government’s consultation (until 17th October)…

Any members of IPM that want us to include your thoughts in our response then let me know. I must say, I am not feeling very optimistic 🙁

2 thoughts on “Place Pessimism

  1. Hi Cathy

    Is the answer in your opening comment ie ‘scale and type required’. If that decision making is vested in the hands of an autonomous and independant community “Partnership Board’ they have the opportunity to determine whats right for them

    i guess youre right in terms of the need for capacity building and resourcing. Hopefully in SA we can learn from the UK and be sufficently prepared when the time arisies

    1. Hi Stuart – planning decisions will still be made by the council…it will be interesting to see what happens in areas where local people are getting neighbourhood plans together. I know of one place already where the Town Council has a plan but the community has another one…watch this space! I am glad you looking after SA 😉

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