Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Retail Planning Guidance and Policy in Scotland: A Review and Critical Analysis

Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Retail Planning Guidance and Policy in Scotland: A Review and Critical Analysis

Article excerpt

In recent years the importance of the service sector as an employer has increased significantly in the United Kingdom). Retailing has been one of the main motors of this growth. These economic shifts have been paralleled and, in part, caused by sociological changes, so that shopping has become a leisure activity as well as a necessity. All of these factors have had significant land use impacts. The growth in private transport, the related demand for access and the increased space requirements to enable retailers to provide the type of shopping environment that customers demand have seen a gradual decentralisation of retailing. This was first classified by Schiller, with his three waves (Schiller, 1986). The apogee of these changes is the out-of-town regional centre. Typically this has good road access, large amounts of free parking, major retail chains which act as anchor tenants, a large number of retail outlets housed in some form of enclosed mall and a range of non-retail activities, such as food outlets, cinemas and childcare facilities. Although by no means all of these developments, for example the Metro Centre in North East England and Merry Hill in the English West Midlands, have been developed on greenfield sites, some have. This, along with their reliance upon private transport, debates about their impact upon established centres and the inability of the poor and those lacking personal mobility to access them, has meant that planners have generally tended to oppose such developments. This opposition has been paralleled by strong support for the retention and enhancement of existing centres, stimulated in part by a number of influential reports (DOE, 1994). Central government has accepted this line of argument, with retail guidance in England and Scotland stressing the importance of town centres as the preferred locations for retail development (DOE, 1996; Scottish Office, 1998). Policy at the national and local level is now based on the sequential approach, with the preferred location for retailing being the town or city centre. If it cannot be accommodated there then the next preference is edge-of-centre, that is a location adjacent to the centre and readily accessible from it (Scottish Office, 1998, 27). Only if needs cannot be met in these locations are out-of-centre sites, within the urban area but separate from the established town centre, to be considered. There is a general presumption against out-of-town developments on greenfield sites or on land not within the urban area.

Despite the enthusiasm for locating retailing in established centres, the impact of the sequential approach has been subject to limited critical scrutiny. The purpose of this paper is to consider the evolution of Scottish National Guidance on retailing, which culminated in 1998 with a firm endorsement of the sequential approach, and to see how this has been implemented through development planning. The example used is the Strathclyde Structure Plan whose retail policies have been firmly underpinned by the need to maintain a retail hierarchy of established centres. The implementation of this policy is then considered using, as an example, the Buchanan Galleries-an enclosed shopping mall that opened in early 1999 on the edge of Glasgow's City Centre. Despite passing all of the sequential tests it is argued that the development could have an impact similar to an out-of-town development. The starting point is to outline briefly the Scottish planning system before looking in detail at national guidance on retailing.

The Scottish planning system

The Scottish planning system is, in its general principles, very similar to that operating in England (Hayton, 1996a). The Scottish Executive, the implementing arm of the Scottish Parliament, provides guidance through three types of document:

* National Planning Policy Guidelines (NPPGs), which set out government policy on land use and other planning matters that are judged to be of national importance. …

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