HC Deb 19 November 1996 vol 285 cc818-9
2. Mr. Waterson

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many town centre managers are now in place; and how many there were five years ago. [3117]

The Minister for Construction, Planning and Energy Efficiency (Mr. Robert B. Jones)

There are now more than 180 town centre managers in the UK, compared with fewer than 20 in 1991.

Mr. Waterson

Is my hon. Friend aware that the post of town centre manager in Eastbourne was established in 1992 and that the present incumbent is Elliott Cairnes? The post forms a genuine partnership between the borough council and leading local retailers. It has had a broad measure of success in boosting the status of Eastbourne as a major regional shopping centre, as well as resisting the effects of out-of-town shopping development.

Mr. Jones

I am certainly happy to join my hon. Friend in saying what a good job is being done by all those involved in the Eastbourne town centre initiative. Eastbourne is a very attractive place and should be successful. It can be so only through partnerships of the nature described by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Vaz

May I congratulate the Minister on adopting the policies on town centre issues that the Opposition have espoused over the past 10 years. It is a welcome conversion to common sense. I remind him that Labour councils, with their partners in the private sector, have been the ones to work hard to develop so many new initiatives on town centre management—without any help from the Government, him or the Secretary of State. Can the Minister point to one new policy—just one—that, if implemented, will directly assist town centre management, or is he just going to repeat some more political plagiarism?

Mr. Jones

I noticed that the hon. Gentleman was hobbling when he came into the Chamber—that is the trouble with trying to keep one foot in each camp. The hon. Gentleman has been trying to tell the supermarket developers that the Labour party would relax our policy, and to tell consumers that it would protect them. He cannot have it both ways.

Mr. John Marshall

Does my hon. Friend agree that too many town centres are being destroyed by unnecessary parking restrictions? Will he advise local authorities such as Barnet to get their finger out and do something about it?

Mr. Jones

Parking is a critical issue for reinforcing the attractiveness of town centres, and local authorities should look carefully at their policies to see whether they are putting people off coming to take advantage of the retail or leisure opportunities in their town centres.