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Rouse warns that urban reforms 'may be undone'

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The Housing Corporation's new chief executive, Jon Rouse, has issued a stark warning over government plans to loosen regulations banning out-of-town shopping schemes.

Rouse - who has just stepped down as CABE chief executive - said the proposals found in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's PPS6 consultative document have the capacity to 'undo everything we have achieved in the past 10 years'.

Critics claim the document - which the government insists represents a strengthening of its pro-town centre policy - shows a relaxation of the policy introduced to great success by the Tories more than a decade ago.

They believe chancellor Gordon Brown and deputy prime minister John Prescott have come under increasing pressure from the major retailers who argue that if they want the economic boom to continue, planning regulations must be reformed.

However, Rouse said there was good reason to be concerned at the government's apparent change of heart. 'They need to be extremely careful, ' he told the AJ. 'Or all the progress we have made in the past few years in regeneration and urban renaissance will come undone.

'There is a tension at the heart of government about going for growth, ' he added. 'As a result of these pressures we have to make sure we do not undermine all that has been achieved.'

The PPS6 consultative document - which is expected to be issued in its final draft in the coming months - highlights that one of the most important priorities for planners must be continued investment in city centres.

However, it also insists that the 'key consideration for a local planning authority is to provide for consumer choice, by ensuring that a range of sites is brought forward to meet the needs of a variety of retailers and leisure operators'.

A government spokesman insisted there would be no change to the status quo regarding the placement of large retail sheds.

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