Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

  When I appeared before the Committee on 20 July, I undertook to write to you to clarify the issue of extensions to out-of-town shopping centres. The particular point raised was whether the wording of draft PPS6 would allow individual retailers to circumvent the general policy on extensions to such centres, by applying for extensions on a store-by-store basis, and thereby not being subject to the sequential test.

  It might be helpful to start with a summary of the policy as proposed in the draft PPS6. Paragraph 2.12 deals specifically with regional and sub-regional shopping centres. It states that:

    "The Government does not consider it likely that there will be a need for any new out-of-centre regional or sub-regional shopping centres . . . or the expansion of existing ones. If such a need is identified, however, it should be addressed through the Regional Spatial Strategy . . .. There may be a need to improve public transport to existing out-of-centre facilities, but this will not justify extending them."

  Thus any potential extensions to these centres should, under the proposed policy, be identified in principle in the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS), as part of the wider retail strategy for the region, with particular reference to need. The relevant local planning authority (LPA) should then reflect this strategic priority within local planning policy, as an allocation if appropriate. Paragraphs 2.23-2.24 state that LPAs should take account of the following when making decisions to allocate sites, as well as all other relevant matters:

    —  assessing the need for development;

    —  securing the appropriate scale of development;

    —  applying the sequential approach to site selection;

    —  assessing the impact of development on existing centres; and

    —  ensuring the locations are accessible.

  Paragraph 3.31 of draft PPS6 deals with planning applications for extensions to existing development, stating that:

    "Applications for the extension of existing developments may raise specific issues. The impact on the town centre of the proposed extension should be given particular weight if new and additional classes of goods or services for sale are proposed. In addition, where establishing need is concerned, local planning authorities should establish that the evidence presented on the need for further floorspace relates specifically to the class of goods proposed to be sold. The sequential approach is not a relevant consideration in relation to extensions, but local planning authorities should still have regard to the accessibility of the proposed development."

  This proposed text makes it clear that planning applications for extensions to existing development are not subject to the sequential test, although further consideration should be given to the impact and accessibility tests.

  As currently drafted, these references in the emerging PPS6 fail to address clearly the issue raised by the Committee of a potential creeping extension of an out-of-town shopping centre through the piecemeal extension of individual stores. This issue has been raised in consultation responses, and is something that we will be looking at as PPS6 is finalised.

  I would also like to raise another matter. Having read the transcript from the session, I find that I may have inadvertently confused the Committee in my answer the Question 32. The needs test and the scale test are of course separate, and address different issues.

  The needs test looks at both quantitative and qualitative considerations, giving greater weight to the former. Paragraph 2.28 of draft PPS6 advises that, in assessing quantitative need, local planning authorities should assess the likely future demand for additional retail and leisure floorspace, based on existing and forecast population levels and expenditure in relation to the classes of goods to be sold, within the broad categories of "convenience" and "comparison" goods.

  In contrast, paragraph 2.33 of draft PPS6 addresses the issue of scale, and states that uses which attract a lot of people should be located within centres that reflect the scale and catchment of the development proposed. The scale of new facilities should be directly related to:

    —  the role and function of the centre within the wider hierarchy and the catchment served;

    —  patterns of existing development within the centre; and

    —  the scale of existing buildings.

  Design, aesthetic and amenity issues are further, separate considerations.

  I would like to thank the Commitee for bringing these matters to my attention, and for their interest in the emerging PPS6.

John Prescott

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