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Development format and town centre first policy

Policies designed to curb out-of-town development, as first introduced in Britain in 1996 (PPG6), have always included a "get out clause". In essence, this states that retail or business developments can be located outside town centres if the type of development proposed cannot be fitted into the town centre. This means large developments and developments "needing" high levels of access by car. So, in order to skirt round the location policy that would require lower reliance on cars for access, all a developer has to do is propose a format that clearly won't fit into the town centre environment. The main examples would be supermarkets, non-food supermarkets and business parks with large plots, but also leisure centres, hospitals and educational establishments.

A key point is missed in the town centre first policy. The objective is not simply to focus non-residential activity in "town centres", but more importantly to ensure that all non-residential development is accessible without a car. The scale of development should therefore reflect the catchment by non-car modes (walk, cycle and public transport). Large scale developments that depend for their viability on very large catchment areas will inevitably require high levels of access by car to produce sufficient demand. The only exception to this is the centre of very large cities with very high levels of public transport access.

Argument(s)The scale of development should match walk, cycle and public transport catchments, not "drive time" criteria.


Development format, car-based, town centre first, sequential test, out-of-town development, parking policy