Richard Heggie has recently posted in his Urblog a piece on the impact of the retail chains (inspired by JD Wetherspoons’ arrival in Orkney) on local culture as expressed through local businesses. The New Economics Foundation similarly has recently warned of the danger of multiples creating “clone towns”.
But as everyone knows, planning doesn’t take account of the identity of an applicant, it just looks at use – so is this an issue planning can deal with at all? Well, there have been rumblings that planning should in certain cases take into account the identity of an applicant: The Competition Commission recently proposed that planning authorities apply a competition test for development of new large grocery stores, restricting further developments by the applicant in an area where they already have dominant position in the market. Implementing such a proposal is not likely to be easy (leaving aside the added constitutional issues for Scotland where competition law is reserved, while planning law is devolved). That’s possibly one reason the coalition hasn’t taken up the idea so far.
However, the state of the centres of small towns is a source of concern particularly to Conservatives and LibDems, with their rural and small-town hinterland. Dumfries, the only Tory-held town in Scotland, is held up by the New Economics Foundation as an example of a clone town. Perhaps the identity of the retail developers will become an issue in time.
On October 18, 2010