HC Deb 14 May 2003 vol 405 cc298-9
3. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)

If he will make a statement on his policy on the construction of retail developments on the outskirts of urban areas. [112942]

The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. John Prescott)

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the parliamentary statement "Planning for Town Centres", which was issued on 10 April. It summarises and clarifies the Government's planning policy for town centres and retail development. We remain firmly committed to focusing retail development in town centres. This policy is working, and we now have more in-town than out-of-town development than at any time since the mid-1980s.

Michael Fabricant

I thank the Deputy Prime Minister for his answer, but does he recall the application for a retail development in the mining town of Burntwood, in my constituency? Some 10,000 people signed a petition in favour of it, the inspector approved it, Lichfield district council approved it and Staffordshire county council, which is Labour controlled, also approved it. Why did the Deputy Prime Minister refuse it?

The Deputy Prime Minister

I think that the hon. Gentleman is well aware of the ruling that I cannot comment on a matter that is under legal challenge. Every Secretary of State would have to give the same reply to the House. It certainly applies in this case. The hon. Gentleman is usually on record as a supporter of out-of-town development. He has obviously changed his mind: we have not.

Mr. Bill O'Brien (Normanton)

May I express my appreciation of the Deputy Prime Minister's work to regenerate urban town centres? Does he accept that the urban renewal programme that he has put in place could be another vehicle to help regenerate town centres? Could guidance be given to regional development agencies and regional assemblies to help them to revitalise urban town centres?

The Deputy Prime Minister

My hon. Friend knows that that is a key priority for the Government. We have concentrated on urban development, particularly retail development. In 1992, about 190 out-of-town shopping applications were granted, which rose to 1,200 in only five years. We are now concentrating more on the development of in-town urban areas—a decision that was greatly influenced by advice from the regional assemblies and regional development agencies. We greatly encourage them to adopt that policy.