North Herefordshire MP Bill Wiggin spoke from the dispatch box last Tuesday in order to promote the Government’s radical localist agenda.
During the exchange Bill was asked to break the traditional Whip’s silence in order speak for Bob Neill MP on matters concerning planning policy and its relationship with public interest.
He said, “I think there is tremendous value in having a prosperous and diverse high street for all the community… We are determined to give local communities greater power to shape their areas and to be clear about the balance of uses they want in town centres.”
“Planning policy on town centres is not pro or anti-supermarkets and it cannot seek to restrict lawful competition between retailers.”
However, he explained that: “Neighbourhood Planning is a radical new right being introduced by the Localism Bill” which will result in “better, more effective and more locally responsive decisions.”
Speaking afterwards Bill Wiggin MP acknowledged the relevance of this approach to his own constituency, where Tesco plans to open a new superstore, commenting:
“Ledbury is a charismatic market town with a series of thriving high streets. Clearly, we must do everything possible to preserve this exceptional heritage.”
“It is important to remember that a town centre possesses not only commercial but also civic value.
Furthermore, the diverse shops in them are often run by small, independent businesses employing local staff. In doing so these enterprises provide a genuinely personal service whilst ensuring that money is both spent – and kept – within the regional economy.”
The debate also saw Bill Wiggin slam Labour’s ‘”over-complex, centrally imposed” approach to fire and resilience. He went on to highlight the Coalition’s £83 million new scheme which ‘builds on locally determined solutions and encourages collaboration and innovation”.