Retail 'summit' a great success! - with news on the anticipated PPS

Conference Report: New retail opportunities: the key to regeneration in town centres? - a seminar hosted by John Lewis

Members can view the speakers presentatios here.
Leckford Delegates Waitrose MD, Mark Price and Sam Howes

A high level meeting between representatives of Local Authorities, a leading retailer and representative of the Government Office took place on 2 April to discuss the impact of the expected Planning Policy Statements on our high streets.

John Aldworth, from GOSE, said: "Now is the ideal time to take forward the Planning White Paper commitment to integrate and streamline all substantive current and emerging national planning policy on economic development:
  • PPG4 Industrial and Commercial Development and Small Firms (1992)
  • Draft PPS4 Planning for Sustainable Economic Development (2007)
  • PPS6 Planning for Town Centres (2005)
  • Proposed changes to PPS6 (2008)
  • Aspects of PPS7 Sustainable Development in Rural Areas that relate to the rural economy
  • PPG5 Simplified Planning Zones."
He added that "Key existing policy messages that we'll be reinforcing in the (next) consultation document include:
  • Ensuring development secures high quality, inclusive design that improves character + quality of an area
  • Maintaining 'town centre first', where appropriate taking measures to protect + enhance the established character + diversity
  • Recognition of need to protect small shops and independent retailers
  • Ensuring continued strong protection of the countryside whilst allowing rural communities to take advantage of economic opportunities and new ways of working
  • Practice guidance essential to effective implementation of policy
  • Will cover main town centre uses (focus on retail, leisure, offices) + use case studies to illustrate good practice
  • Timing: aiming to publish draft guidance alongside consultation PPS."

Ian Anderson of CB Richard Ellis welcomed the single new document 'Planning for Prosperity' and made the point that there is still only 40% Retail within Town Centres / Edge of Town Centres and only 30% within Town Centres. The new regime, he added, is expected to encourage:

  • a Plan-led approach to sustain and enhance the vitality and viability of centres
  • focus retail and other development at locations accessible by means of transport other than the car.
It should also:
  • promote competition to ensure a wide range of shops, services and facilities for people to enjoy
  • raise productivity growth in the UK through an efficient, competitive & innovative retail sector and maximising job opportunities for all.

There will, he said, be a move towards "greater 'sophistication' (and) away from the 'tick box' procedure of current approach, with devolution & empowerment of LPAs."

Delegates at the event, hosted by the John Lewis Partnership, also agreed that there was a need for greater information exchange between practitioners in the public and private sectors long before specific projects are even considered. A better understanding of each other's needs would help stakeholders to reach agreement by which all parties achieve the best outcome. Mark Price, Managing Director of Waitrose, explained the company's long term commitment to community development and desire to work more closely with LPAs to achieve this.

If development is to reach the highest quality, which is what we should expect in historic towns - whether measuring design, economic or sustainability targets - then compromise may be essential, but this should not mean compromising the principles of good practice. HTF would welcome a new PPS and accompanying guidance which will help its Members to achieve these aims. See 'Back in the Easy Chair' for the Chair's assessment of the event.

Chris Winter