The Planning Officers Society has welcomed the Portas Review but issued several scathing comments on some of the key findings in her final report on the future of the High Street. The final report sets out 28 recommendations designed to "free up the high street from constraint, level the playing field, mobilise landlords and communities, and to address the ongoing management of our town centres".
John Silvester, Spokesperson for the Society, said "whilst the report provides a visionary approach to town centre management, all in all the review does not suggest anything significantly to the array of powers already available to a local authority; what they do need to do is rigorously apply what they've already got in a coordinated manner in the context of a town centre strategy."
Some of the planning recomendations the Society has commented on are:
- Address the 'Use Class' system to make it easier to change the uses of key properties on the high street - John Silvester said "POS does not believe a major upheaval of the use classes system is warranted." >> read more Silvester added "introducing a league table for the determination of change of use applications will, in my view, do little to improve speed of determination. Anyway is speed really such an issue nowadays what with all the efforts of successive Governements to improve matters?"
- Put betting shops into a separate 'Use Class' of their own - Mike Holmes, POS President, said "I favour making betting shops sui generis to at least allow some community input and local control of them." >> if you are a POS member you can read more
- Local authorities should make more proactive use of Compulsory Purchase Order powers to encourage the redevelopment of key high street retail space - John Silvester said "CPO powers are readily available if an authority wants to use them."
- Promote the inclusion of the High Street in Neighbourhood Plans - John Silvester said " POS belives that in urban areas neighbourhoods may be more difficult to define, but council wards, housing estates, residents' associations, or town centres and other clear land use or physical features may provide suitable boundaries, depending on the purposes of the proposed plan.">> if you are a POS Member read more
- Developers should make a financial contribution to ensure that the local community has a strong voice in the planning system - Silvester commented "if an authority sets out regeneration of its high street as a priority in its CIL tariff then developers will be required to make financial contributions." >> if you are a POS Member read more
- Make explicit a presumption in favour of town centre development in the wording of the NPPF - Silvester said "whilst POS has not made this particular suggestion in its own response to the NPPF, what it has said is that there is need for a policy of concentrating employment uses as far as possible in a town centre which will then have the advantage of underpinning the retail offer and supporting public transport. " >> read more about the POS response to the NPPF
- Introduce Secretary of State "exceptional sign off" for all new out-of-town developments and require all large new developments to have an "affordable shops" quota - Silvester commented "the Secretary of State already has intervention powers if they choose to use them; what would be wrong, in my view, is a blanket approach to requiring the SoS to determine all such proposals. Such powers need to be used as and when appropriate."
John Silvester, POS Spokesperson
"The Portas Review An independent review into the future of our high streets" can be read here.