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POS Supports “Town Centre First” Approach but Raises Serious Concerns over Lack of Clarity and Negative Impact of Draft PPS6

Date: 1/10/2008

In submitting its response to Government on the proposed changes to Planning Policy Statement (PPS) 6: Planning For Town Centres the Planning Officers Society (POS) has expressed support for the reiteration of the current town centre first policy approach and sequential test for retail and leisure uses but has, however, raised a number of concerns.

The first concern is that the policy approach towards office development warrants clarification and that this should reflect the primacy of centres for such development; second, that the role of regional planning in developing future policy for town centres is in need of clarification since the proposed changes in the draft PPS6 are ambiguous.

David Wood, for the Society, said   “the retention of the needs test when drawing up development plans is welcomed in that it provides an element of certainty; however, it is not clear whether the new impact assessment embraces the need to assess capacity due to insufficient clarity at this stage.   There must be a concern that applicants will still wish to demonstrate that issues of need have been addressed as part of the wide-ranging assessment of impacts.”

POS asserts that the need to become conversant with the new impact assessments when drawing up development plans and when considering planning applications is likely to have a significant bearing on local authority resources, especially when compared to those that can be commanded by the development industry. David Wood added “there is also the issue of the available expertise and skills in local authorities to be assessing and evaluating the impact assessments, particularly if they include markets and land values. Many authorities will have to employ specialist consultants to undertake such work.”

POS also encourages the Government to accept that the issue of how much weight the various parts of the impact test should have will be critical; and thus it should be proposed in the PPS that development plans should have a key role in setting out what the important aspects of impact are likely to be in particular local areas, even go as far as indicating the likely weight likely to be given to particular impacts.

POS raises a final concern that the changes to the development control approach may have negative impacts on the policy approach aspects. David Wood suggested “there does need to be very clear recognition in the PPS that town centre regeneration is inevitably a complex and often lengthy process that involves wide ranging private and public sector partnerships. The success of town centre regeneration often relies on establishing and sustaining developer confidence. There is a real danger that the development control approach changes set out in the draft PPS6 may have the unintended effect of undermining that hard earned confidence.”

POS believes that the PPS should reinforce the need for retailers and developers to engage with LDFs (and in particular core strategies to plan ahead for retail and town centre development. This would reinforce the plan led and town centre first approaches.



David Wood is Junior Vice-President of the Planning Officers Society and Chair of its Spatial Planning & Policy Committee,; he can be contacted by telephone on 0121 569 4028, or by email jvp@planningofficers.org.uk







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