Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 3 October 2013


All landscapes change over time as technology and social practices develop. The canals were originally built as an in-land transport system for heavy cargo. Then the railways came along and canals fell into disuse and now they are used primarily for leisure.

Along came Dr Beeching and many old railway lines are now used by walkers and cyclists, and our countryside is scarred instead by massive motorways. No doubt the M5 will one day be supplanted by whatever comes next. We adapt.

Never more so than in retail since the Second World War. The advent of out of town shopping centres which are so convenient and offer enormous choice and value for money has put a huge dent in the high street, especially in secondary shopping locations, like Plympton and Plymstock and Ivybridge. And just when you sense the high street might be making a bit of a comeback, along comes internet shopping. Wallop. My children hardly ever go to a shop these days. They order everything on line and it is brought the next day by the postman or a white van.

How should we respond? One way is to make sure our town centres are as attractive as possible and offer other tempting delights to augment the shopping experience. We are trying to do this in Ivybridge through the Town Team which will be unveiling its plans shortly.

But we should also not try and resist the irresistible. King Canute got his feet wet. We should enable our planning system to reflect modern realities. For example, who among us think that those five empty units on the ground floor of the McCarthy and Stone building on the Ridgeway will ever be used for retail again? We should allow them to be turned into residential units forthwith. We need more single bedroom units.

When I walk from my London flat to the House of Commons at 7.20 a.m. and back again at 10.20 p.m. (got the message?) I walk past several office blocks being converted into residential flats. With the advent of technology we simply do not need as many offices any more. So the landscape is necessarily adapting.

There are advantages in having people living in our town centres, as certainly needs to happen in the centre of Plymouth.
Paradoxically, their increased footfall can help keep the high street healthy.

The planning system must be flexible enough to reflect the need to adapt as society changes.

posted by Gary @ 09:35