During the past 30 years the balance between retail development in “out of town” as opposed to “town centre” locations has been a recurrent theme in retail planning policy debates and policy initiatives within the UK. This paper reviews the continuing growth and diversification of out‐of‐town retail development and draws attention to the recent investment in retail services complexes in out‐of‐town sites. A brief outline of changing central government thinking suggests an increasingly restrictive approach to new out‐of‐town retail development coupled with a policy commitment to “put town centres first”. The paper then offers some illustrative examples of town centre management initiatives in Leicester, Leeds and Manchester, and concludes with a brief discussion of some of the issues surrounding the “in town – out‐of‐town debate”.
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