“Today I will explain why we think the government’s planning reforms in their current guise are a threat to diversity and vibrant town centres, when in fact it could be a wonderful opportunity.
I contend that planning reforms as they currently stand will not deliver on this pledge. Is this a policy u-turn, or is the government sleepwalking into a new era of excessive out-of-town development?
The Localism Bill clauses on planning are weak and the Bill has some glaring omissions.
First, there is no clause relating to retail diversity, and no clarity on how local planners can go about securing diversity.
Second, the presumption in favour of sustainable development is not on the face of the Bill. This threatens a toxic mix: councils facing the burden of proof to stop developments without the definitions required to help them.
And third, there is no requirement for independent analysis of the impact of new applications.
In reality, this analysis will be conducted by the developers themselves, which will allow them to set the criteria that suits them and to spin the data in their favour.
In short, the Bill is not Tesco-proofed. The highly effective members of team Tesco and team Asda and Sainsbury’s and the others are licking their lips at the prospect of these loopholes.
I don’t believe government has u-turned on its support for high streets, but unless there are significant policy changes now, I believe we could be sleepwalking into a dangerous era for small shops.”
Let’s hope the MPs will be listening carefully.