Opinion: Planning policies changed our habits

Eric Pickles' decision to approve the Rushden Lakes shopping and leisure development was pragmatic, says Neil
Eric Pickles' decision to approve the Rushden Lakes shopping and leisure development was pragmatic, says Neil
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The decision to approve the Rushden Lakes shopping and leisure development was pragmatic and reflects the reality of how we live our lives today.

Decades ago planning policy allowed for out-of-town shopping centres to be created up and down the land.

And people voted with their feet.

Free parking, all the shops you need within easy walking distance and the chance to have a coffee or lunch before taking in a film in the afternoon combined to make these new shopping centres incredibly attractive propositions.

They offered everything that an increasingly more mobile population who love their cars wanted in one place.

But what of our town centres? For years they stagnated as local authorities continued to approve out-of-town schemes while bemoaning the departure of shops and other traditional town centre attractions.

It is no good being wise after the event.

Our town centres have changed and nothing that Mary Portas or anyone else says or does can turn back time.

But our town centres need not die, and most in the north of the county are thriving or developing.

We need a reason to go into our town centres over and above what we can get out of town.

That reason could be niche shops, a cultural quarter or a thriving night-time economy.

There will always be shops in a town centre, but at the risk of repeating myself, times have changed and our town centres are finally facing up to the challenges and embracing the need to change too.

Neil Pickford, Editor

@NeilPickfordNT