Planning Minister Out of Answers on Town Centre First

Planning minister Brandon Lewis MP has admitted that Government does not monitor the effectiveness of planning rules designed to promote investment in town centres.

As part of an evidence session conducted by the Communities and Local Government Select Committee, the former high streets Minister  told the Committee that town centre first planning rules were a matter for local authorities to deal with as part of their local plans, despite fewer than one in seven actually having plans in place that comply with the NPPF.

When asked about ACS research suggesting that 76% of developments approved since the NPPF came into force have been located out of town, Mr Lewis questioned the methodology of the research – claiming that a random sample of half of all of the decisions made during that period was “not necessarily the whole picture of what’s going on around the country”. Mr Lewis was then asked by Simon Danczuk MP about the data that Government collects on planning, to which Mr Lewis responded that “we don’t collate that sort of information from local authorities”. He also admitted that Government had collected no data about the effectiveness of the sequential test – another issue raised in ACS’ research on the issue.

Speaking during the evidence session, Mr Danczuk said: “So the Government doesn’t collect figures on where houses are built, whether it’s on brownfield or greenfield, they don’t collect information or statistics on where retail floorspace is built, whether it’s out of town or in town centres. Does the Government know anything about anything that’s being built anywhere in the United Kingdom?”

ACS Chief Executive James Lowman said: “By not monitoring planning decisions, and by failing to promote its own town centre first policy, the Government is allowing more out of town development which damages high streets and goes against consumer trends towards more local shopping.   Without the confidence that major developers can only get from rigorous adherence to a town centre first policy, they will look to cheaper, easier out of town developments.   The Government either does not understand this, or it has lost interest in planning policy.”

ACS research on the effectiveness of the town centre first planning policy can be found here:

This entry was posted by Victoria on Thu, 16/10/2014 - 10:01