The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has welcomed a report by the Communities and Local Government Select Committee criticising the application of planning policy by local authorities.
In its report on the operation of the National Planning Policy Framework, the committee has drawn attention to shortcomings in the way planning decisions are reached, and has made a number of recommendations relating to town centres and retail planning, including:
• A large number of local plans, through which councils should identify what development should take place and where, have not been written or are insufficient or out of date. The process for forming local plans should be streamlined, and whole plans should not be delayed by difficulties resolving single issues.
• Planning policy should be changed to require developers to show flexibility in breaking up large developments to try to fit into available town centre sites.
• The Government should gather more data on planning decisions.
• New research on changing shopping habits should be commissioned, and the results fed into a review of planning policy.
ACS chief executive James Lowman, who gave evidence to the select committee, said: “The committee has identified the key problems with how the National Planning Policy Framework is being interpreted by local authorities. Developers can exploit the absence of good local plans, and the sequential test that promotes town centre development is not always clearly understood. Without strong local plans, flexibility and change of use for property will hollow out town centres rather than helping high streets to evolve.
“We stand by our research into the problems with the planning system, and this report vindicates our view that we need more Government action to make the system work better. We support the National Planning Policy Framework, and we are committed to working with Government to make it more effective.”