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John Munro’s letter (21 December) is an astonishing admission of failure by an urban planning professional. But there are
 numerous examples of failures in urban planning from the 1960s onwards. Our town centres are paying the price of these failures now.

Mr Munro advocates a laissez faire “bottom up” approach to planning out of the hands of government. He questions the cost analysis of saving town centres, but has problems with elderly people living in remote villages with no services or transport and the economic and environmental costs of them travelling to town centres to shop.

Out-of-town supermarkets and retail parks are the low-cost option for developers, frequently with local or central government subsidy. Cheap sheds with a stack em high and move them out approach. What’s not to like about low prices and free parking? However, there are hidden costs in addition to any direct subsidy – roads have to be built, new transport links provided and sewers built. With more and more paving, flooding becomes an ever greater problem. These costs mean higher taxes. The out-of-town developments draw trade from the town centres and invariably customers have to travel to take advantage of the “convenient” shopping.

There are examples around the world of different successful approaches to urban living. We need to consider these and adapt the best ideas to our local needs. In a modern Scotland fit for the 21st century, we need vertical expansion, not horizontal in our town centres to house the elderly, singles and newly married. We have to avoid the tower estates of our recent past. But these residents would have access to local shops, entertainment and services, consistent with the “green agenda”.

JOHN BLACK

Woodhollow House

Helensburgh