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 🙁