Retail Property - Hill asks for retailer's support to improve town centre growth

Planning Minister Keith Hill explicitly laid out the challenges posed by the Government's new draft Planning Policy Statement, governing retail and other key town centre uses, at last week's Retail Week Property Forum

Hill said the statement - PPS6 - released for consultation in mid-December, 'poses a number of challenges to everyone with an interest in retail and commercial development'.

For planners, PPS6 poses the 'challenge of culture change - the need for a more proactive approach to planning'.

The retail industry needs to exploit the opportunities created. Developers have to start investing in medium-sized towns, and retailers need to extend their operations into under-served areas. Hill said that at the same time, the Government needs to provide 'a clear and unambiguous policy context, which gives you the confidence to invest and trade in town centres'.

Delegates were told PPS6 represents a move to stronger regional planning and to support for smaller and medium-sized towns, bypassed by existing planning policy.

Under the Government's new planning regime, planners are expected to play a stronger role, turning their attention to determining retail growth needs, as well as identifying and providing sites.

Plans are needed for growing centres, despite more intensive multi-storey and mixed-use development. 'This approach should create opportunities for large-format retailers, by allocating large edge-of-centre sites for retail, leisure and mixed-use development,' said Hill. 'We need to offer realistic, central opportunities to enable large-format retailers to support, rather than compete with, town centres.'

PPS6 aims to provide a faster planning system, alongside greater public and business involvement. Planners need retailers' help in determining the best way to develop town centres and in identifying sites, said Hill.

The retail industry can play a 'major role' by developing a 'shared vision and strategy' through town centre management, business improvement districts and similar initiatives, he said.

- Forum review: overleaf.