Archive for 14th July 2008

CEN article: Planning changes to help smaller shops

INDEPENDENT stores like those on Mill Road, Cambridge could be protected from the arrival of big-name stores if planning rules are tightened.

The Government has announced plans to change the rules to protect small shops and curb “clone-town Britain”.

A tougher “impact test” is being introduced to give councils a better tool to prevent big developments that put small shops and town centres at risk.

It could help residents fight off unpopular commercial developments like Tesco’s plans to open up on Mill Road in Cambridge which was met with a storm of protest. However Cllr Ian Nimmo-Smith, leader of Cambridge City Council, who reported the supermarket’s plans to the Office of Fair Trading, demanding an investigation, said it was too early to tell whether the changes proposed would help to preserve the character of Cambridge.

He said: “We will welcome planning policies which give local people an opportunity to express their preference for individuality and character in their shopping areas and we will look with interest to see whether the Government brings forward anything which helps to achieve this.

“Clearly the issues raised during the Tesco debate are ones which local people felt their preferences were not being adequately expressed through the planning system.”

The proposed changes which would affect guidance known as Planning Policy Statement 6: Planning for town centres were announced by Hazel Blears, Communities and Local Government Secretary.

She said: “Our priority is to ensure we do not see more and more stretches of the nation’s high streets turned into bland ‘every towns’ where every high street has the same shops, the same look, and the same sterile feel.
“We need more individuality, more small scale independent shops, and a new spirit of independent enterprise on our high streets.

“That’s why we plan to give councils more scope to curb ‘clone-town Britain’ and to block large out-of-town developments that can rip the heart out of town centres and threaten the survival of many high streets and smaller shops.”