Ministers have been urged to consider imposing severe restrictions on new out-of-town retail developments to save town centres against a backdrop of mass closures of high street shops.
The radical suggestion was first put forward nearly a year ago by Mary Portas, the government’s retail tsar, in a review into how to stem the decline of Britain’s small shops.
The government has accepted many of the report’s 28 recommendations, including setting up a Distressed Retail Property Taskforce that will be unveiled on Monday to combat growing numbers of boarded-up shops.
Yet ministers shied away from her idea that all out-of-town applications should automatically be called in by ministers.
Chris Wade, chief executive of the charity Action for Market Towns, urged ministers to revisit the idea. “That was quite a bold recommendation, but it was never accepted,” he said. “We would want to see that happen.”
For now, the government has reaffirmed its previous “town centre first” policy in its recently condensed national planning policy framework – namely that retailers should only be able to consider edge-of-town or out-of-town locations if town centre options are not possible. Read more