HC Deb 01 July 1997 vol 297 c97
7. Mr. Vaz

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on his policy towards town centre initiatives. [4670]

Mr. Caborn

Town centre initiatives can play an important role in helping to maintain the vitality and viability of our town and city centres.

Mr. Vaz

I welcome the Government's commitment to promoting and protecting our town centres. Does my hon. Friend agree that, as well as using planning powers more effectively, we must encourage and foster relations between local government and the private sector, particularly the retail private sector, to encourage more people to live, work and shop in our high streets?

Mr. Caborn

Yes, very much so. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend's work before the general election to bring together groups and foster the ideas that he has mentioned. The Government are taking action on two studies through the Association of Town Centre Management and will develop those themes. There is a political consensus, which is reflected in the Environment Committee's report on out-of-town shopping. When the Government respond to that report in two or three weeks' time, we hope to develop that consensus, addressing some of the problems that my hon. Friend talked about.

Mr. Pickles

To encourage people to come back and live in city centres, some new homes must be built there. What percentage have the Government set as a target for development on brown-field sites in cities? How much erosion of green-field sites do they expect in the next five years?

Mr. Caborn

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows that those issues are part of district plans. There is a forecast of 4.2 million homes to be built by 2016. It is important that a general consensus emerges in district plans and regional structure plans. There will be difficult decisions, but the consensus is to try to ensure that developments take place in city centres before other areas are developed.

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