Headlines: July 11th, 2008

Proposals for new planning rules from Communities and Local Government would give councils more scope to refuse out of town development proposals that threaten the survival of high streets and small shops.

The new proposals maintain the ‘town centres first’ policy, but impose a tougher ‘impact test’ to give councils a better tool to prevent big developments that put small shops and town centres at risk. Using this test, councils will now examine more factors including retail diversity, consumer spending, loss of trade, impact on town centre investment, scope for regeneration and job creation to ensure that the vibrancy of town centres and high streets is protected against harmful development.

The revised policy will also remove the ‘need test’, which required
developers to prove the need for additional out-of-town development. It is argued that this test unintentionally stifled diversity and consumer choice, by only assessing whether there was enough consumer expenditure capacity to support new retail floorspace such as an out of town supermarket.

Following the Competition Commission investigation which reported earlier this year it is likely that a competition test will also be imposed.

Consultation on the proposals will end on 3 October 2008.