Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Brigg's Thursday and Saturday markets are not as big or well-supported as they once were - and our small shops could do with a helping hand. So Brigg Blog was interested to receive a statement from the Minister overseeing such things, headed Protecting Small Shops and Boosting Town Centres.
We've highlighted the paragraph of particular interest below...
An overhaul of the planning system that will give Town Halls the tools they need to boost business growth and provide new safeguards for town centres and local markets was published by Housing and Planning Minister John Healey, on a visit to Doncaster town centre and market with Markets Minister Rosie Winterton.
Planning policy has long supported town centres, but after extensive consultation, John Healey yesterday published new advice for Town Hall planners that replaces previous guidelines, cutting the guidance from 137 pages down to 32.
The new Planning Policy Statement 4 combines town centre and economic development policy into a single streamlined statement that supports sustainable economic growth, protects local markets and small shops and will help councils make the decisions to help speed up economic recovery in our towns and rural communities.
The revised guidelines keep the important 'sequential test' for town planners, which requires the most central town centre sites to be developed first for shops, leisure and offices rather than out of town sites that lure high street shoppers away.
A tougher 'impact test' is also being introduced, replacing the dysfunctional ‘needs test’, which will now give councils better controls over big developments that put small shops and town centres at risk. Using this test, development that could harm town centres will be assessed against key factors including climate change, impact on the high street, consumer choice, consumer spending and jobs.
John Healey said: “At this time of year when we shop in the New Year sales, we appreciate our town centres more than ever as the vibrant hearts of our communities. We need to protect and promote town centre economies, which is why I am publishing streamlined guidance strengthening the ability of councils to safeguard local services like shops and pubs – the lifeblood of our towns.
“As the country moves towards economic recovery, the government is putting in place new protections for local shops at the heart of communities as many high streets have been hit hard by a double whammy of the downturn and out-of-town retail parks.
“By strengthening the hand of local councils we are giving them the expert tools they need to put the viability and vitality of town centres first in difficult market conditions. The new tools go further than ever before to protect town centres from the harm large out-of-town developments can have.
“This new approach also gives rural and urban councils the powers to back developments while making sure that the impacts on important local services like pubs and shops are fully considered in planning decisions.
“We are helping councils plan for the recovery, so they can make the right long term, local decisions that generate growth and prosperity for the community.”
Local Government Minister Rosie Winterton said: “Yorkshire has a great market heritage and Doncaster, where we are today, is one of the biggest and finest markets in the North that has been around since the thirteenth century.
“Markets like this all over the country have had a tough time recently with competition from out of town supermarkets and discount stores but they are a vital part of the local economy creating jobs, attracting more people to town centres and providing good value fresh produce.
"As the Government's champion for traditional markets I am delighted that this new economic planning policy will make it easier for town halls to protect and enhance existing markets as part of their vision for the town centre."
Matthew Taylor MP, who produced the Taylor Review into rural housing and economies said: “The new economic planning guidance (PPS4) implements significant recommendations of the ‘Taylor Review’ (Living Working Countryside). This is a major simplification of economic planning policy, gives strong support for traditional market town centres, and clear backing for appropriate economic developments that sustain small rural communities.
“In the past too many villages have seen their local economy whither and die – in the new PPS4 there is now firm support for rural businesses, shops and other facilities that sustain rural employment and services.
“In the name of protection, too many rural villages have ceased to be living, working communities as economic opportunities have been over-curtailed – that should no longer be the case. I hope every rural planning authority will respond to this new guidance, recognising that the key to protecting a sustainable countryside is also maintaining thriving rural communities with vibrant local services and businesses.”
Specifically the revised Planning Policy Statement 4 (PPS4):
• reinforces the 'town centres first' policy and ensures the planning system promotes the vitality, viability and the unique character of town centres;
• promotes consumer choice and retail diversity;
• keeps the important 'sequential test' that requires developers to seek the most central sites first;
• removes the dysfunctional 'needs test' which can unintentionally stifle diversity and consumer choice in town. In some cases new shops in town centres were ruled out because out of town developments, such as big supermarkets, already provided that function.
• creates a new tougher 'impact test' that assesses economic, social and environmental criteria so councils can better assess the impacts on the town centre. It tests whether impact is positive or negative on climate change, town centre consumer choice and retail diversity; investment and town centre trade and gives councils powers to cap the size of big retail developments where this is justified.
• Requires local authorities to plan positively for sustainable economic growth
• Requires local authorities to make markets an integral part of the vision for their town centres, enhancing existing markets and, where appropriate, re-introducing or creating new ones.
• allows rural authorities to plan for economic development in rural areas subject to the need to protect the countryside, recognising that a site may be acceptable even if it’s not readily accessible by public transport.


Ken Harrison said...

This will be an excellent policy, if it's put into practice.
Out-of-town retail parks attract a different type of retailer -B&Q, super-sized Curry's and Toy 4 Us - essentially large self-service warehouses.
The retail parks are both in direct and indirect competition with town-centre businesses in several facilities, commercial rateable value, local and government incentives.
The worst case of retail park magnetism I've seen is in Rotherham - about 45 miles's town centre is reminiscent of streets of small 'convenience' stores and empty shops, while the outlying retail parks attract drogues.
But where has the character gone?
The retail park in Greenwich, where my daughter lives, is just like any other retail park in Preston, Glasgow and Scunthorpe - 'cept the shops are arranged in a different pattern.
(For info and not really related to text: The so-called O2 Arena in Greenwich, has recently been sold to Trinity College, Cambridge!!)
Retail park outlets may offer local opportunities for employment, but these are usually low-paid service-type positions. The financial benefit to local authorities are the rates they such RP pump into the local economy.
Meanwhile, town centre premises are usually handicapped by high commercial rates, high rents and the diminishing incentives of local authorities to improve the image of such centres. The highest land values are usually found in town centres, so investors who want to build 'Ardale-type' centres are again usually attracted to sites away from the central business district.
Perhaps, local planners could consider reducing the commerical rates of town centre properties and offer individual shop-keepers some extra financial incentives for locating his shop/occasioanl market stall in the centre.
Market stall holders are obviously going to respond to town centres where the overall shopping population will offer them the highest return profit.
Over recent years, Brigg has responded well to the changing retail infrastructure with the opening of small, but distinctive specialist shops. But is this enough? The answer is no. There need to be extra incentives offered to both the shop-keepers and the shopper. I am certainly not advocating a McD's in Brigg, but how many young families, for example, bribe their kids with a double-cheeseburger during their shopping expeditions?
What is needed in Brigg, perhaps is something/ or things that are unique to and in-keeping with the town. What about a little train that does a circular tour of the car parks and the high street? How about rowing boats on the river? How about piped music? How about developing regular novel activities, such as pancake racing, go-cart racing, pavement painting, town crier and I-Spy competitions, school choirs, street
One can get many external incentives, but the local community has to respond to make a venture a success.

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