The daily E Planning newsletter reports that the (presumably English):
‘…Government is proposing to stop collecting its own data on the proportion of retail development taking place in town centres.’
The move comes despite the abolition in 2009 by the Labour Government of the need test, which required developers to show need for proposed edge-of-town or out-of-town stores.
The abolition came despite warnings from the RTPI that it could accelerate the decline of the high street, and surveys that showed that twice as many senior local authority planning officers thought that it would undermine town centres than that it would not.
The Conservatives, then in opposition, said that if elected, they would reinstate the test.
The Department of Communities and Local Government pledged in 2008, in response to a select committee report, that it would publish data on the proportion of retail development that is located in town centres every year.
The committee had said that the Government needed to improve its collection and publication of statistics on town centres to ensure adequate monitoring of the results of the need test abolition.
However, in February last year a DCLG consultation document proposed releasing the data only biannually. A summary of responses to the consultation, published in October, said no decision had been made on the proposal.
But a wider DCLG consultation, launched in April this year, on departmental data-gathering proposes ending the collection of statistics on the extent of retail development taking place in town centres due to the "high cost of purchase and analysis" of the data.
The document suggests that, given the necessary resources, data could be procured from private companies offering monitoring services.
Planning journalists came across the latest proposal as they researched an article, which appears in the current issue of the magazine, exploring whether retail development was moving out of town.
Lobby group the British Council of Shopping Centres said it was concerned by the news. "More frequent and localised data on where development is taking place is essential if government is to monitor the impacts of policies and respond effectively," said executive director Edward Cooke.
Just off to check if they collect data in Scotland
(The article by Richard Garlick, Adam Branson and Susanna Gillman Thursday, 14 July 2011 can be found here)