June 11, 2013

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Many traders in Formby, Crosby and Maghull have told me they want a bigger say in what happens in our town centres and that’s why they have been working together to improve trade in their area.

Yet recent changes to planning rules could do the opposite.

New rules include measures to make it easier for pay day lenders, fast food take aways and betting shops. The rules also allow offices to be turned into housing despite a huge majority of councils objecting to these changes. These are precisely the types of moves that could make it harder for the local traders I meet.

For these reasons, I will be signing EDM 153 asking for these damaging reforms to be repealed.

On May 9, the Government laid before Parliament The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (England) Order 2013. It came into force on May 30.

This is what is known as a statutory instrument and it changes the rules on high street planning, rural planning, residential extensions, office conversions and the location of schools.

Particularly worrying is the impact that this will have on independent retailers, pubs, employment areas and most importantly the power of local people to have a say about the shape of their high streets and town centres.

The Government claim that their changes will make it easier for new businesses to open up on the high street but this is simply not true. New businesses aren’t opening. But this is because of the Tory-Lib Dem Government’s economic failure. It is not the planning system which has undermined consumer spending power.

Instead the planning changes will make it easier for payday lenders, betting shops and fast food takeaways to continue their sprawl along the high streets and will make it harder for councils and communities to have a say in the future of their town centres. When a place has too many of these types of shops it can put off people from shopping there and other retailers from setting up in business.

Labour would take the opposite approach to the Government’s misguided reform and hand more power to local people to shape their high streets and create places where they and their neighbours will shop. And I shall be hosting a drop in session for traders in Formby in a few week’s time to try to help local shop owners achieve similar aims.

Labour also want to encourage councils to turn empty shops into start-up businesses, pop-up shops and other forms of diversification, to give areas life and drive up footfall. But the main point is to encourage local people to drive forward changes which will benefit their area.

Research from the Local Government Association has shown that:

·         76% of people support Government giving new powers to local councils to help them shape the High Street in line with the wishes of the community.

·         68% of people do not think that it should be possible for a bank to be turned into a betting shop without planning permission.

·         63% of people support the Government giving new powers to local councils to help them prevent clustering of premises.

Traders in Formby, Crosby and Maghull need support to help them succeed. We all can support local shops but we also need the government to make sure that the right shops are encouraged to thrive so our town centres and high streets are places that people want to visit.