§ 22. Mr. Sutcliffe
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many new out-of-town shopping developments await planning approval subject to appeal to his Department.
§ Mr. Sutcliffe
How does the Minister intend to stop abuses by property speculators such as Spring Ram Corporation in my constituency, which blackmailed the local authority into providing planning permission in green-belt areas by promising jobs and then set up a retail development? How will that assist local authorities such as Bradford, which suffer blight in their city centres?
§ Mr. Gummer
The hon. Gentleman will know that I have made it clear that there can be no movement from a non-retail operation to a retail operation. There have been many occasions on which people have pretended that they were doing something different. I have insisted that the decision be made on the proper planning grounds. If the hon. Gentleman would like to bring that case to me, I will examine it carefully.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman supports me in putting pressure on local authorities to recognise that if we are not to have out-of-town shopping centres which will mar the countryside, they must make the inner cities and the towns much more attractive to business and to shoppers. Therefore, the next stage must be a real reaction of support from local authorities. I am getting such support from some local authorities of all political parties.
§ Mr. McLoughlin
Will my right hon. Friend acknowledge the outstanding contribution that out-of-town shopping centres have made in enhancing facilities for disabled people, in making it more pleasurable to go shopping and in making local authorities 1000 question carefully how they develop town centres, so as to attract shoppers rather than, as has happened so often in the past, discourage them?
§ Mr. Gummer
I agree that much of the improvement in city centres and town centres, particularly those run by Labour authorities, has been the result of the development of out-of-town shopping centres and the fear that unless standards are raised it will be impossible to stop people moving to the out-of-town centres. I hope that we shall see an increasing willingness to provide the same quality and choice in our city centres as is available outside.