What’s the plan?

Bruce Skivington and John Black (Letters, 27 December) express contrasting reactions to John Munro’s letter (23 December) on the future of urban regions.

One agrees that planning must accept the forces of change but thinks Mr Munro has not seen far enough ahead. The other believes that there have been too many damaging changes and there is a need to revert to the past.

In the past 90 years the “built-up” area has increased by around 300 per cent, and the number of cars, buses and trucks by more than 1,000 per cent, with vast improvements to the road network. Real buying power has increased by more than 500 per cent. Many people don’t work in the towns in which they live.

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To assume that the historic pattern of centres can be adapted to meet present needs is entirely unrealistic.

Mr Skivington is right that communications technology will lead to vast changes in commerce. However, most retail centres will not disappear, although their share of trade will decline.

Before the advent of supermarkets, most shopping was for food and done in local shops, not town centres.

Most homes had grocers, butchers, bakers, fishmongers, greengrocers and pubs within walking distance.

Since reducing the need to travel and increasing movement on foot and cycle is a key planning aim, providing more facilities nearer to homes and more of these closer to existing services is sensible.

However, in Perth, the council, while saying it wants to regenerate its ailing city centre, has adopted a new development plan which locates most new housing well away from it (and within about 50 minutes’ drive of Glasgow Fort) while placing others over the Tay, some of which are within easy walking reach of the centre, in “green belt” or “conservation areas”.

The rationale for this is not explained.

Mr Black says Mr Munro is following the ideas of the last century. Does he mean by assuming that cars will be the main transport mode?

If he thinks most people will use public transport he is mistaken. Efforts to do this have failed miserably. Car sales are booming. Town centres and their access roads cannot accommodate large volumes of cars without creating many problems.

Mr Black does not want huge amounts of parking, as in Los Angeles. As a non-car owner, I agree. Just what he wants is hard to understand.

Trying to support town centres by pushing into them services which can operate better elsewhere and/or stopping provision of new centres elsewhere is undemocratic and counterproductive.

It will not work. It is like limiting tourist attractions in North Berwick to encourage more people to visit Dunbar.

Walter Markham

Atholl Road

Pitlochry