Councils must have power to save their high streets
January 17, 2012
MP Julian Huppert has impressed upon Parliament the need to empower Cambridge and communities across the country to make the decisions to secure the future of their town centres.
He welcomed the government’s commitment to protecting the nation’s high street and moves to decentralise power, but added there is more that can be done.
During a debate in the House of Commons today (Tuesday, January 17) Julian said how Cambridge was lucky to have a successful city council, led by Councillor Sian Reid who was fighting hard to protect its town centre and local high streets.
“As such, we’re more than ready to identify where the government reforms are working, and where they will not deliver as expected,” he said.
But he added that the city council is powerless to stop supermarkets moving into the city even when local people are opposed to them.
He spoke about the success and diversity of Mill Road and the fight to protect its future. And he added that, after pressure from Cambridge City Council, the government agreed to change the planning categories, known as ‘use classes’, under which businesses fall to empower local councils to control which shops dominate their high streets; but to date no action has been taken.
“Despite the best efforts of Sian Reid as council leader, Catherine Smart as deputy leader and myself as the local MP we have not been able to find any legal means by which we can prevent supermarkets from opening new stores on our high streets,” he said.
“It is perfectly possible, under existing rules, for a supermarket to hold a reasonable market share across the country, but to have a complete monopoly in a town or on a high street. The result is a complete lack of choice for consumers, which is bad for the community and bad for the economy.
“I’ve worked very closely with city councillors to find out how we can represent the interests of our constituents by breaking local monopolies and promoting local stores. Local Government must be able to control whether new stores are chains or independents, small or large outlets, because that is want people want them to do.
“If, by the end of this Parliament, it is still impossible for local communities to control their own neighbourhoods then this government will have failed to meet its own aims,” he warned.