§ 17. Mr. Ronald Atkins
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what estimate he has made of future demands for new retail business premises, and of surplus or deficiency in the supply already planned.
§ Mr. K. Robinson
No estimate has been made for planning purposes of future demands on a national basis, but local planning authorities have been given guidance on how to estimate retail floor space requirements to suit particular local circumstances. I am sending my hon. Friend a copy.
§ Mr. Atkins
Is there not an even greater need in this instance for an estimate? In view of the greater concentration of shopping in supermarkets and mail order firms, taken with the greater mobility of the customer, is there not a danger that we may become a nation of keepers of empty shops?
§ Mr. Robinson
Here again, I do not think that there is any point in trying to make a national estimate in planning terms. It would have to be broken down into local units. I do not think that it necessarily follows that the fact that there are shops unlet is the result of over-provision. It can be caused by a number of factors—economic circumstances, and the like.
§ Mr. E. Rowlands
Is not my right hon. Friend aware that one of the main architectural features of town centres nowadays is empty shopping centres? If the new developments are not empty, they often cripple existing shopping centres. As local authorities do not seem to be applying the criteria issued by my right hon. Friend to local authorities in his valuable booklet on methods of estimating retail floor space requirements, will he issue a further circular emphasising that these are strict criteria to be observed in all cases?
§ Mr. Robinson
The circular stressed that in our view over-estimating of shopping space is the danger most to be avoided. We shall have to see the effect that the circular has before considering whether further guidance is needed.