Out-of-town sites still focus of retail development plans

Developers are continuing to desert the high street to build out-of-town retail parks despite government efforts to restrict non-high street development, according to a report released exclusively to Marketing Week.

The report, by market analysts Mintel International, reveals that out-of-town retail space will have increased by 30 per cent since 1996 from 63 to 82 million sq ft by the end of this year. The high street has been slack by comparison, with only a four per cent increase of retail space over the same period to a total of 120 million sq ft.

The expansion, which has occurred as retailers attract greater numbers of shoppers with better leisure and eating facilities, such as bowling alleys, cinemas and children’s play areas, goes against the grain of successive governments’ efforts to direct retailers back to the high street through stricter planning policy guidelines.

However, despite Labour backing moves originated by the Conservatives which encouraged high street investment, developers have made the most of planning consents granted prior to the crackdown and have continued to open out-of-town sites.

Mintel retail analyst Neil Mason says: “When the planning policy guidelines were introduced, there were an awful lot of developments already in the pipeline, and they are still filtering through.”

The report, called “Leisure shopping off the high street”, claims more people are heading to the new shopping centres and retail parks like Bluewater in Kent because they demand more fun from their weekend shopping trips.

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