Market Failure?: Can the traditional market survive? - Communities and Local Government Committee Contents

Supplementary memorandum by Communities and Local Government (MARKETS 31A)

  Further to the hearing on Monday 20 April 2009, I promised to respond to the Committee's follow up questions in the areas listed below.

As I said at the hearing, I welcome the Select Committee's inquiry into retail markets. Markets can offer a distinctive part of a town centre strategy for local areas, and I would be keen to see what improvements the Select Committee recommends following their inquiry.

  In respect of follow up points, the Committee was keen to understand whether and how Government departments liaise with London Local Authorities on the London Local Authorities Act 1990 legislation. The position is that Government Office for London liaises with London Councils—the umbrella body for London Boroughs—about their emerging local legislative proposals to ensure that they are engaged with the relevant policy teams in Whitehall. It is a matter for individual departments to consider how its specific policy is working in practice; for example, it is the responsibility of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to liaise with Government Office for London and other Government Offices in the regions about street trading.

  I mentioned at the hearing that I was planning to meet with London Councils later that week to discuss a range of matters. Unfortunately due to diary commitments, I was unable to meet with London Councils but will be rescheduling the meeting shortly.

  Following the Select Committee hearing last week, the Chief Executive of the National Association of British Market Authorities (NAMBA) has written to me with a request to meet to discuss how markets link up with local and national initiatives and the role of markets in revised planning guidance. In his letter, the Chief Executive has suggested that the Retail Markets Alliance would be keen to join any such discussions. I am keen to take up the offer of a meeting, and I have arranged to meet with NAMBA on 13 May.

  Secondly, the Committee wanted further clarification on whether the good practice toolkit that CLG provided to local authorities in October 2008 mentions markets. The guide on "managing town centre partnerships" does make reference to markets, although these are given as examples of the types of activities town centre partnerships might encourage. This is in keeping with the message I hoped to convey to the Committee, namely that the role of markets should be considered by iocal authorities as part of the wider vision and strategy councils wish to see for their town centres. It should be noted that this document is intended to provide step-by-step guidance on setting up and managing town centre partnerships, rather than provide detailed advice on the various issues and opportunities that town centre partnerships deal with. The document on "Looking after our Town Centres", published on 14 April 2009, provides more detailed information on partnership working and includes a specific sub-section on Farmer Markets. I attach a copy of the report for the Committee's information.

  Thirdly, the Committee wanted further clarification on the timeline of the "detailed policy statements over the coming months, offering advice and guidance at the local level". As set out in my written evidence, the detailed policy statements were produced by the Markets Industry Forum and will support the work of the All Party Parliamentary Markets Group (APPMG). Paragraph 4 of the written evidence was a continuation of the previous statement (paragraph 3) and was directly referring to the work of the Markets Industry Forum, rather than activities of the department. I sincerely apologise if I didn't make this clear in my written submission or in my oral evidence to the Committee; it was not my intention to mislead the Committee. I will, however, look at the detailed policy statements when produced by the Forum and consider whether they can be used as the basis for best practice guidance issued to local authorities.

  I understand from officials that the Markets Industry Forum that will be producing a Policy Framework document highlighting how markets connect with these policies, which is scheduled to be complete in the autumn of 2009 when it will be presented to a meeting of the APPMG. We recognise the valuable contribution that street, covered and farmers' markets make to the vitality of town centres and the wider rural economy and will be interested in the outcome of the report presented to the APPMG.

  In terms of Government policy on planning guidance, in line with our commitment in the 2007 Planning White Paper and Killian Pretty Review we are undertaking a review of national planning policy to ensure we communicate policies better and produce a framework that is focussed on the needs of the user. We are anxious to provide local authorities with the flexibility and autonomy to determine local policies that are distinct to their area and consistent with local people's ambition for their areas. We are keen to make planning guidance less prescriptive and better co-ordinated. That is why, as I mentioned at the hearing, we have decided to bring together the planning policy statements covering economic development topics into a single new PPS on Planning for Prosperous Economies. This new PPS will incorporate draft PPS 4: Planning for Sustainable Economic Development, PPG 5: Simplified Planning Zones, PPS 6: Planning for Town Centres and the economic development policies in PPS 7: Sustainable Development in Rural Areas. We will shortly consult on a draft of this new PPS. This will create a coherent and modern set of policies designed to meet the economic challenges we face both now and over the longer term.

  I hope this letter clarifies the points raised by the Committee. I look forward to receiving the Committee's recommendations from/s inquiry.

Iain Wright MP

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State

30 April 2009

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