Based on the same principle applied to felling trees that if you chop one down you should plant a new one, the idea is that national retailers should only be given planning permission to build superstores on the edge of our towns on the condition that for the duration that they operate from that location they also rent out at least one empty town centre shop, refurbish it, and then sub-lease it on to a local business at a certain percentage below the average rent in the town (i.e. similar to the Council's current Affordable Homes policy of capping house resale prices at a certain percentage below the value of the property). I would further finesse the idea by:
- applying it to only to certain sectors (in particular supermarkets) which generally tend to take business away from town centre shops.
- requiring that superstores over a certain threshold lease town centre retail space not less than, for example, 5% of their total out-of-town floorspace - therefore an exceptionally large out-of-town retailer maybe required to lease more than one town centre shop.
In this way we could keep our town centres vibrant, promote new local small businesses and also enjoy the convenience and choice brought by out-of-town superstores. What do you think? Can you see any reasons why such a scheme may be unviable? Perhaps you have other, better ideas? Unfortunately it may already be too late to save some of our town centres...
UPDATE: With reference to this post the County Councillor for Holyhead Town, Cliff Everett, writes in once again to say:
"a very interesting concept you have posted re town centres, I think its worth investigating further via section 106 agreements, I would say that when Morrisons applied to come on the retail park in Holyhead, I asked for planning gain for the town centre and they agreed to pay for free parking for 3 years in one of the town centre car parks, this now applies to lower hill street car park for the first hour, I also asked for planning gain for play areas in Holyhead again it was agreed and £26k was donated to the town council for play area improvements."Its tremendous to see that there are some Councillors who are open to engaging with Anglesey residents in this way - its also good to hear that he has obtained some benefit for Holyhead's Town Centre from Morrisons in the form of free car parking and a play area. Happily, Cliff also promises to pass on this idea to John Chorlton, the new Planning portfolio holder.