Jul 27, 2009
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High streets under threat

Jul 27, 2009

LONDON — Traditional city centre high streets could be further threatened by planned out-of-town development laws, MPs warned Saturday 25 July.

Photo: AFP

Many high streets are a shadow of their former selves thanks to giant shopping malls and all-purpose supermarkets being built on the outskirts.

The Guardian said Saturday 25 July that nationally, an eighth of all high street shops were empty and unlet -- twice as many as last year -- "with many towns seeing a slow, cancerous hollowing-out of their streets" as the recession bites.

The Communities and Local Government Committee expressed concern that proposed reforms could damage the viability of town centres.

Under plans laid out in 2007, the government is set to scrap a test specifically in place to prevent excessive and unnecessary out-of-town retail development.

The move followed criticism that the test critera could restrict competition and consumer choice.

But the MPs' committee said the test needed to be kept.

"We have heard from representatives of developers, of local planning groups, that it is serving a useful -- some say essential -- function."

The committee said the impact of the change could be even worse in the present economic conditions.

"In the current economic climate, the removal of the need test would present unnecessary risks to town centres," it said.

The Guardian quoted Tim Danaher, editor of Retail Week news magazine, as saying: "It's really bad at the moment for a lot of 'second tier' towns, a rung down from the big regional shopping hubs.

"And the problem is, once the decline starts, it's very hard to arrest it."

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