Communitites and local government
Julian Huppert (Cambridge, Liberal Democrat)
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I shall do my best to comply.
Such chain stores drive other shops out of business, and we need to have some tools available to limit their growth. Local people should be able to find an appropriate balance between the convenience of the familiar and the excitement of the eclectic.
This has been a live issue for a number of years, and Cambridge city council has worked with the Local Government Association and Lord Greaves to table an amendment to the Localism Bill in the other place. This amendment—153AKC, according to the other place’s rather opaque numbering and lettering system—has become known in some circles as “the Cambridge amendment” because of the key work done by Sian Reid, leader of Cambridge city council. It sets out in simple steps how we can give local communities the tools they need. Put simply, the amendment adds to the duties of a local planning authority the requirement to assess the vitality and diversity of local shopping areas.
It does not bar specific companies; it does not set targets for the number of independent retailers; it would not, in itself, have any bearing on the current make-up of our high streets; but it would give local communities such as Cambridge the freedom to decide whether a planning application will add to, or detract from, the vitality and diversity of the area. In some areas of the country a Tesco store may increase the viability of the high street, whereas in others, such as Cambridge, it would decrease it. Communities will get the decision they want.
It was clear in the debate on the amendment in the other place that many people shared the concerns I have set out. The question is: what can, or should, be done about it? This does, of course, require people to vote with their feet as well, but I hope that Members on both sides of the House will agree that giving local authorities the right tools to strike the right balance is desirable, and I also hope that the Government will support the Cambridge amendment and allow communities around the country to have more say on their high streets, such as Mill road.