A confirmation from a government Minister that town centres will be given priority in the forthcoming Localism Bill, has been welcomed by the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS).
Greg Clark, Decentralisation and Localism Minister, confirmed during a committee session for the government’s proposed Localism Bill on Thursday last week that more clarity and emphasis will be put on the ‘town centre first’ policy and he also commended ACS for its “important work on this issue”.
The Localism Bill, unveiled by Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles in December, will decentralise powers to local authorities and communities allowing them to take over failing businesses such as shops.
James Lowman, CEO of the ACS, said: “We are delighted by this breakthrough for the high streets campaign. This is the first time ministers have given explicit reassurance that they will retain strict protections for town, neighbourhood and village centres in national planning policy. The minister has said that reform will clarify and strengthen the policy and we look forward to working with him to ensure that this is the case.
“However, we will continue to press for a change in the law as we strongly believe this is the only sure way to increase the resolve of councils that fear the legal resources of big developers. Without these clauses there is a still a risk of plans for big out of town stores being forced through, which would have a devastating effect on the long term prospects for our high streets.”
Last week the Local Data Company revealed how town centre vacancy rates in the UK increased to 14.5 per cent by the end of 2010, as a increasing number of multiple retailers focus developments on out-of-town sites instead of the traditional high street.
ACS believes that the Localism Bill can help reverse this trend and has asked retailers to band together and put further pressure on the government to help ensure future high street developments across the country.
“The breakthrough statement from the minister makes us even more determined, and now is the time for retailers to make their voice heard,” Lowman added.
“We are co-ordinating a letter writing campaign asking retailers to write to their MP asking them to back the campaign.”