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Town centre first policy not working says ACS

16 July, 2014

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has told an influential group of MPs that high streets continue to suffer from the unrelenting stream of out of town developments.

In an evidence session on the operation of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), ACS chief executive James Lowman told the Communities and Local Government Select Committee of the failure of the Government’s ‘town centre first’ policy and the need for change to support high streets.

He said: “Local plans should be the basis on which decisions are made on new developments. However, there are so few compliant local plans that NPPF is being relied on to make these decisions. The town centre first policy within the NPPF is useful, but the supporting guidance and evidence of its implementation is sorely lacking.

“In many cases, the impact assessments that take place as part of the approvals process are being led by the developers and not by the local authorities, resulting in the number of approvals that are seen in our research.”

In a study published at the end of 2013 by ACS, it was shown that 76% of all developments given approval since the new NPPF came into force are located out of town. The report concluded that the sequential and impact tests are not being applied effectively.

Despite the study being hailed as a “major step forward” by John Lewis Partnership during the session, the question was raised over the validity of the report’s findings, which Lowman said was a “disappointing” reaction from Government.

He said: “We are disappointed that the Government has not taken seriously the implications of our report. A representative sample of 50% of all decisions made over an 18-month period is robust, and in line with other research – notably from CB Richard Ellis which tells a similar story. We would be very keen to meet with the new planning minister Brandon Lewis to go through the findings of our report in detail.”

Keywords: ACS, minister, planning

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