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The absence of a robust planning policy statement governing retail and town centres is putting our town centres at risk. Minister Campbell announced a review of PPS 5 in 2000, and the draft PPS was published in 2006. Can the Minister explain why, some 29 months later, the review and the new PPS 5 have not yet been adopted?
I thank the Member for his question. I could almost be as tetchy as the deputy First Minister in my response on this issue, because it irritates me greatly that the judicial challenge has been sitting with the High Court since January this year and that developers would take this House to court on the issue for their own pecuniary interests against the interests of the wider public in Northern Ireland. The PPS 5 document is ready to go. It will help to secure our town centres, and it is repulsive that developers would challenge that document purely for their own personal gain against the public interest.
I absolutely agree. Town centres are being put at risk, and jobs are being lost. Although it may suit some individuals to carry out such actions, and I have no control over how courts do things, I wish that a decision could be made as quickly as possible so that we can move on, whatever decision the court makes.
Does the Minister agree with me that multinational companies have enormous economic power and that policy must therefore aim at ensuring a level playing field? Will he therefore ensure that draft PPS 5, when it emerges, will protect local independent business and, in particular, will minimise the obstacles to new local businesses starting up?
That is the idea behind PPS 5. However, it must always be recognised that, in a democratic state, we cannot control who chooses to invest or where that investment is made. We must make our region as attractive to investors as possible, and I want to do that through how I deal with planning. I will encourage a process that is quick, efficient and fair.