Ministers back pedal over shopping mall regs

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By Peter Woodman, Transport Correspondent, PA News

Green campaigners today claimed that new transport planning guidance proposals had been "watered down" by John Prescott's Transport Department after interference from Downing Street.

Friends of the Earth had hoped that the draft consultation out today would crack down on giant out-of-town complexes.

But the FoE claimed the guidance had "left the door open" for the huge complexes to continue to spring up.

"It looks like the guidance has been watered down by Number 10," said FoE transport campaigner Roger Higman.

He went on: "John Prescott appears to have had his wings clipped again. The guidance is not really very `green' and is a bit wishy-washy."

The guidance suggested local authorities, in their planning policies, should, among other things:

Give priority to people over traffic in town centres;

Focus major generators of travel demand in city, town and district centres and near to major public transport interchanges;

Ensure development plans and transport plans complement one another;

Accommodate housing principally within existing urban areas;

Use parking policies to promote sustainable transport choices and reduce reliance on the car for work and other journeys.

Planning Minister Nick Raynsford said: "This revised planning guidance is about getting the right development in the right place.

"We want those land uses which attract large numbers of people, such as public buildings or large employers, to be much more accessible by a choice of means of transport, including bus, rail, walking and cycling as well as by car."

He added that existing traffic impact assessments would be replaced by new and broader transport assessments. These would need to take account of the accessibility of development by a range of transport options, including provision for those without use of a car.

He went on: "We are also encouraging the use of green transport plans which can provide, for example, additional bus services. This is all part of our policy to tackle congestion and pollution by giving people an option other than to use their car for commuting and other journeys."

Mr Raynsford said that too many local planning authorities set minimum standards for car parking in new developments and that this could result in over-provision, which could distort transport options and involve a wasted cost to business.

He added: "We are removing that requirement and introducing maximum standards, which will help ensure that existing policy is applied much more consistently. I am pleased to say that many of these standards are already in use by local authorities."

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