New national planning rules have failed the town centres they were designed to protect, MPs have been warned.
Speaking at a Parliamentary event hosted by MPs Marcus Jones and Priti Patel, independent planning consultant Jonathan Baldock said town centres had been “going backwards in retail terms” since the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework in 2012. “The NPPF is much looser than previous policies; it needs to be tightened up,” he added. “We need a monitoring system for it.”
Baldock’s analysis of 50 case studies of new retail planning applications found that 76% of the retail floorspace permitted was out of town. Only 48% of applications had been assessed by independent consultants instructed by the council, and in every case they advised that retail impacts had been under-estimated by developers.
“The market is going for cheap, easy and quick solutions, and it’ll go on for as long as developers are allowed to,” he told the MPs at the All Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group and Town Centres Group. “Too many local authorities are sitting on their hands and leaving it to the market.”
Hugh Ellis, head of policy at the Town and Country Planning Association, added: “The NPPF has been a failure, it’s supposed to protect town centres but hasn’t. There are lots of issues the NPPF hasn’t got right.”
Marcus Jones, Conservative MP for Nuneaton, admitted: “Even though the economy is improving, the town centre is still the same.”
Under the NPPF, local authorities should apply a sequential test to planning applications, with preference given to town centre locations.