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GUMMER FAILS TO BACK TOWN CENTRES WITH 'REAL' POLICY CHANGES

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Hundreds of out of town shopping centre developments are going ahead, despite the government's promise to favour to...
Hundreds of out of town shopping centre developments are going ahead, despite the government's promise to favour town centres instead, BBC Radio Four's Today programme reported this morning.

Environment secretary John Gummer told the programme local authorities had only themselves to blame if they let their town centres become run down.

In a speech today the chairman of the council for the Protection of Rural England will accuse Mr Gummer of failing to back his commitment to town centres with any real policy changes.

'Mr Gummer has made many fine statements but he's not actually changing the policies against which all the planning decisions are made, Tony Burton of the CPRE told Today.

A survey by Retail Week magazine has found there are 760 out of town centres in the pipeline around the country, Today said.

The programme reported on Cribbs Causeway, a £100m indoor shopping complex near Bristol which will be the largest of its kind in the south west. Northavon DC backs the development, saying it offers growth and jobs.

But Bristol City Council bitterly opposes it, Today reported. Councillor Paul Smith said city centre shops such as John Lewis are relocating there.

Mr Smith said the government could help by allowing councils to use the business rates they collect.

Mr Gummer told Today: 'I'm determined to get the right balance between the out of town shopping centres and the city centres which we need to regenerate.'

New planning guidelines make it much more difficult for out of town developments to get permission, he said.

But Bristol City Council was the real culprit in allowing its city centre to run down, he said.

'I'm going to get councils to understand that they need to give life to their city centres', Mr Gummer said. They should get rid of unpleasant and dangerous car parks, appoint town managers and make town centres user friendly.

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