Supermarkets

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 17th May 1995.

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Photo of John Battle John Battle , Leeds West 2:30 pm, 17th May 1995

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many planning applications for supermarkets are awaiting his decision for a public inquiry. [23203]

Photo of Paul Beresford Paul Beresford Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment)

Approximately 50 proposals for supermarkets over 4,000 sq m are awaiting decision.

Photo of John Battle John Battle , Leeds West

The Minister may be aware that Leeds development corporation recently approved a large-scale supermarket development in the green Kirkstall valley, despite opposition from the local authority, councillors, residents and businesses, and flying in the face of his recent planning guidance. I urge the Minister to call in the application, even at this late stage. Road access has not been sorted out and the development could jeopardise the town centre of Bramley and close down all its shops. Will the Minister call in the application and put forward a proper scheme which is acceptable to the whole community?

Photo of Paul Beresford Paul Beresford Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment)

I am happy to look at it, but if planning permission has been given, there is nothing that the Department or the Government can do.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , South Staffordshire

While my hon. Friend is pondering such decisions, will he bear it in mind that the transition from a nation of shopkeepers and small shops to one of supermarket shoppers has not been wholly beneficial?

Photo of Paul Beresford Paul Beresford Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment)

Yes, I will. I am sorry that my hon. Friend did not attend the recent debate on that very subject, when all hon. Members were in agreement. In fact the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz) called it a love-in, which may be the reason why my hon. Friend was not present.

Photo of Clive Betts Clive Betts , Sheffield, Attercliffe

Is the Minister aware of two planning applications in my constituency which have been treated in completely contradictory manners? At Oxclose farm, the council rightly turned down a planning application for a superstore in a green-field site which was not served by any public transport, but an inspector delegated by the Secretary of State overturned the decision on appeal. At Drakehouse, adjacent to an existing centre, however, when the council proposed to change existing retail permission to food retail, the Secretary of State so disliked the idea that he called in the decision for further review. As the latter site is well served by public transport and adjacent to an existing centre, is it not time the Government turned fine words into practical policies, supported local shopping centres on the ground and stopped undermining them, as Government policy on planning applications appears to do every time?

Photo of Paul Beresford Paul Beresford Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment)

The hon. Gentleman would clearly also have benefited if he had come to the debate to which I referred. He would have recognised that Opposition and Government are both going down the road that he mentioned.