It is no wonder that the UK’s high streets and town centres are struggling when the nation-wide chains are continuing to move out of town-centres and into out-of-town retail parks. (Info from Local Data Company’s 5th Retail Market Trend Summit for 2015).
It has been known for many years now that out-of-town shopping centres and retail parks are weakening the UK’s town centres, but our Local Authority Planning system is continuing to allow such sites to be established or to grow and expand.
This is doubling worrying because the growth of new independent stores, which have driven the growth of many town centres since 2010, has slowed down very considerably. If this decline in the opening of independents continues we will be entering a new phase in the struggle to have vibrant town centres and high streets.
It really is time for Local Councils to have policies to prevent the growth of out-of-town shopping, and to robustly implement these polices. Unsuitable developments which weaken town-centres and high streets can be fought off – the recent refusal by the Secretary of State (backing up the local planning authority’s previous refusal) of an out-of-centre retail development in Exeter is an encouraging example.