New planning rules 'will harm market towns,' claim North Devon Tories

CONSERVATIVE politicians have condemned the Government s proposed changes to planning rules, which they say will reduce the powers of local authorities to control out-of-town retail development. Torridge and West Devon MP Geoffrey Cox and Philip Milton, P

CONSERVATIVE politicians have condemned the Government's proposed changes to planning rules, which they say will reduce the powers of local authorities to control out-of-town retail development.

Torridge and West Devon MP Geoffrey Cox and Philip Milton, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for North Devon, claim the new rules would be harmful to small market towns and rural communities.

Mr Cox, who last year sat on a Conservative Commission which looked at how market towns could be reinvigorated under a new Government, was responding to a new report from a cross-party House of Commons Committee that has warned that the Government's proposed changes to planning rules on retail development will result in "many more out-of-town superstores".

This comes as a separate nationwide survey by the British Retail Consortium has found that more than one1 in 10 of all town centre shops is now vacant.


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The Government's changes are enshrined in new national planning rules on retail development. Local councils will have to observe the rules when assessing planning applications. The new regime will scrap the 'needs test', which requires developers to prove the 'need' for additional out-of-town development. The changes have been driven by Gordon Brown.

Mr Cox said: "Labour's weakening of the rules which protect against excessive out-of-town retail development threatens to undermine the vitality of local high streets and harm our market towns.

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"Councils need the discretion and power to halt unsuitable out-of-town expansion and promote town centre regeneration. The Commission to whose work I was able to contribute last year, specifically argued in favour of keeping the 'needs' test for new retail development.

"At a time when we have a record number of empty shops on our high streets Gordon Brown's plans will harm small retailers and accelerate the problems faced by our market towns.

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