Boles: Councils May Have Been Swayed by Out of Town Job Claims

Communities and Local Government Minister Nick Boles MP has attributed the increase in out of town development to local councils being ‘swayed’ by supermarket job creation claims during the recession.

Leading a Westminster Hall debate on planning and out of town development, John Pugh MP questioned the effectiveness of the Government’s town centre first policy in the national planning policy framework, citing research conducted for ACS which shows that since the new framework came into place in 2012, 76% of development given planning approval is located out of town.

John Pugh MP said: "Town centres are a vital part of community life. Out of town developments and their domination by supermarket giants are currently a serious threat to the vibrancy and sustainability of our town centres. Planning policy must act to prevent us sleep walking into a scenario where England is characterised by hollowed out communities, streets of empty shops and huge parking lots full of bright glass fronted concrete sheds. We must not compromise on strategy and vision, vital for the regeneration of our town centres, simply to go along with supermarket giants."

During the debate, Mr Boles defended the role of supermarkets, claiming that Government has to balance equally the importance of continuing supermarket development and diversity in town centres. When questioned about the increase in the number of out of town developments, Mr Boles suggested that council’s decision making may have been ‘swayed’ toward approval due to the impact of the recession.

Mr Boles said: “In the teeth of a deep and long recession, planning authorities may well have been more swayed by arguments highlighting the number of jobs created by new supermarket developments than they might have been inclined to be during the boom times towards the middle and end of the last decade or, indeed, before.”

An investigation by ACS and The Times in 2011 ( showed that supermarket job claims were often exaggerated, with the annual reports of the supermarkets revealing that overall, the number of staff that they employed went down despite claiming the creation of thousands of jobs.

Also during the debate, Simon Danczuk MP raised concerns about the number of out of town developments that are being approved but not built, leaving town centres in ‘limbo’ and discouraging development. In response, Mr Boles said that he was “not aware of that particular problem”, despite evidence from CBRE which states that the amount of out of town supermarket development in the pipeline has risen to 39.47m sq ft, compared to 8.5m sq ft in town.

ACS Chief Executive James Lowman said: “New out of town developments are clearly detrimental to town centres, but from the moment they are approved, they dissuade other retailers from investing in town centres close by. The Minister’s comments are worrying, because they reveal central Government to be oblivious to the planning decisions being taken around the country, and their impact on town centres and the economy. This is despite the evidence that has been presented to them by ACS and other organisations.”

This entry was posted by Chris on Wed, 25/06/2014 - 09:00