Former architecture and heritage Minister John Penrose’s campaign for urban renewal and greenfield preservation got an important boost yesterday, with support from the Minister for Sustainable Development & Housing Don Foster MP during a Parliamentary Debate.
John called on the Minister to help local communities preserve the best and most beautiful parts of their town and cityscapes for future generations and, having done so, to make it easier to regenerate town centres and High Streets by building above shops. The move would reinvigorate hard-pressed High Streets struggling to cope with competition from out of town centres and online retailing, offer crucial new sites for residential building to solve the country’s severe housing shortage, and reduce pressure to develop greenfield sites as a result.
Together with MP's from all sides Don Foster praised John Penrose for securing the debate. He said that many of the powers to implement John’s proposals are already in place, but the approach is rarely applied because some Councils and many community groups don’t understand how to do it. He undertook to discuss the issue with Ministerial colleagues, and to issue new information and advice to make sure John Penrose’s approach could be applied wherever it would help. Mr. Foster said "I assure him that we will look at the issues raised in the debate. We will at least help to disseminate the information available more widely, and if changes are needed, we will consider them".
Afterwards John Penrose said: "I'm delighted by the Minister’s warm reaction. If we build up, rather than out, we can save green fields and breathe new life into High Streets too. Our towns and cities would become prettier places to live and work, full of Parisian-style boulevards with a vibrant mix of shops, restaurants, galleries, offices and apartments. I shall be watching closely to make sure the Minister’s commitment to brief local Councils and community groups on how to implement this approach is delivered quickly, so work can get underway."
The transcript of the debate is available here.
Also, a video recording was made of the entire debate and is available here.