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MINISTER TELLS RETAILERS AND PLANNERS TO TACKLE 'FOOD DESERTS'

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Local authorities and food retailers have been urged to improve access to local food shopping by improving their as...
Local authorities and food retailers have been urged to improve access to local food shopping by improving their assessment of local community needs.

Planning minister Beverley Hughes told delegates at the third annual local food retailing conference that local authorities should develop community led local retail strategies - a key recommendation of the policy action team 13 report 'Access to shops'.

Ms Hughes said: 'I want to see planners put more emphasis on developing local

solutions to solve problems of social exclusion from services. This will involve defining the food shopping needs of local people within a retail strategy and identifying 'food deserts' - areas that lack retail services within say a 500 metre radius.'

'Our planning guidance on the location of retail development plays a major role in setting the policy framework for the pattern of food retail provision. Planning policy guidance note 6 encourages the development of supermarkets that are appropriate in scale to the role of the centre and the size of the community that it serves.

The policy also seeks to retain key services in local centres - such as post offices and pharmacies - as well as encouraging new local facilities, such as a new health centre, to locate in such centres to build them up.

Ms Hughes also advised food retailers to adapt their proposals to the needs of local communities saying that there were already promising signs of a change, including the growth of local convenience stores and development of smaller formats by the big food retailers.

'But we still need to persuade some retailers that the 'one-size-fits-all' approach is inappropriate for many communities, whether market towns or smaller centres within urban areas. We need much greater flexibility and should try to meet the needs of local communities, rather than expect local communities to adjust to large

formats.'

NOTES

1. The third annual local food retailing conference was held in central London and organised by Landor Publishing.

2. The government's policy on town centres is set out in planning policy guidance note 6 (PPG6): town centres and retail developments, which was issued in June 1996 and was firmly endorsed by the government in July 1997. The government's objectives are:

- to sustain and enhance the vitality and viability of town centres;

- to focus development, especially retail development, in locations where the proximity of businesses facilitates competition from which all consumers are able to benefit and maximises the opportunity to use means of transport other than the car;

- to maintain an efficient, competitive and innovative retail sector; and

- to ensure the availability of a wide range of shops, employment, services and facilities to which people have easy access by a choice of means of transport.

3. Policy action team 13 was set up by the social exclusion unit in the cabinet office. The team looked at the problems that deprived neighbourhoods face in getting access to shops. They published their report, 'Access to shops in deprived neighbourhoods', for consultation in November 1999.

The report advocates, among other things, the need for community-led local retail strategies that reflect the needs and aspirations of their local community, drawn up in partnership with the local authority and retailers.

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