HC Deb 28 March 1973 vol 853 cc1277-8
2. Mr. Duffy

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many planning applications he has received for out- of-town shops and shopping centres; and how many he has allowed.

The Minister for Local Government and Development (Mr. Graham Page)

My right hon. and learned Friend has before him, on appeal or through call-in, 25 proposals for developments over 50,000 sq. ft. floor space. In addition, he has allowed two such cases. He has also rejected two.

Mr. Duffy

How does the Minister reconcile the recent go-ahead at Chandler's Ford with the advice given to local authorities last summer by the previous Secretary of State that supermarkets in future should be sited where they will provide not only for shopping but for a wide range of interests, and cater for those without cars? Is he aware that the Chandler's Ford development renders unlikely proper social provision and positively disadvantages the old, the poor and those without cars? Does not this represent a significant change of policy? Are the floodgates now open? How many super- and hypermarkets are we to have, and will the Minister continue to decide these matters on an ad hoc basis? Further—

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is quite-enough.

Mr. Page

The hon. Member has had the decision letter in the case to which he referred and he will know why permission was granted. In all these cases we must balance the disadvantages to the existing centre of the town against the advantages of out-of-town shopping. But there is no question of decisions being taken on an ad hoc basis. Circular 17/72 was issued to planning authorities giving them guidelines.

Mr. John Wells

Will my right hon. Friend urgently consider the need to create a special class of out-of-town shop selling agricultural produce only, not necessarily grown by the shopkeeper? At present, it is impossible for a farmer to set up a shop without its being rated as a general shop. All planning inspectors reject such applications. Can my right hon. Friend look at this matter urgently?

Mr. Page

I know the problem here and we are considering it with the local authority associations.