HC Deb 18 January 1995 vol 252 cc695-6
5. Mr. Duncan Smith

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his policy on superstore developments on main arterial roads in urban areas; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Gummer

New retail developments should ideally be sited in or within easy walking distance of existing urban centres. Main arterial roads rarely provide suitable all-round access.

Mr. Duncan Smith

I thank my right hon. Friend for that long reply. There is a dichotomy, in that many constituencies have major arterial roads—in my constituency it is the north circular—running through them. When a large superstore is developed on such a road, that adversely affects local shopping areas. Does my right hon. Friend agree that careful thought must be given to such developments as their adverse effect on high streets is the same as that caused by out-of-town developments?

Mr. Gummer

My final sentence described the hiatus that occurs on local roads when an arterial route is built. My hon. Friend is right: the way in which arterial roads draw populations from outside and often attract business away from local shopping centres is a real issue. We are determined to improve and enhance existing shopping centres and to ensure that the public have better access to them so that those centres can grow and bring new vitality to our towns and small areas.

Mr. Heppell

Will the Minister also take into account the dangers of the increased traffic associated with arterial roads? In my constituency there are two planned superstore developments on Valley road, both near accident black spots. Will he give a guarantee that if the submissions are referred to him he will take such factors into consideration?

Mr. Gummer

I am, of course, very concerned with road safety. One of my beliefs is that if we can give new life to city centres and the centres of small towns, and if we can make proper provision for the motor car so that people can use their cars to shop, park them safely and walk from the parking place to the shops—that would probably involve using closed circuit television—we could do a great deal to make them feel that such centres are pleasant, welcoming places. They ought also to be places where we can reduce the number of accidents by designing urban communities properly.

Mr. Hawksley

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that his current policy on superstores will not adversely affect the application for the Merry Hill development in the west midlands, which would result in a welcome influx of some £8 million of private money? I hope that the slight change which seems to have occurred in Government policy will not result in any delay in that application being dealt with.

Mr. Gummer

It would be wrong for me to judge an application on the Floor of the House; I shall look at each one on its merits. There is nothing in our proposition to suggest that out-of-town development is always wrong. We are saying that the balance should be changed and that greater weight should be given to the needs of city centres and the centres of our smaller towns. It is that balance that we have changed. The change has been extremely successful, people in the country at large believe it to be correct, and we shall continue with it.