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The Diet enacted a law Wednesday designed to revive the centers of regional cities, which have hollowed out in recent years as retailers and homeowners have moved to the suburbs.

The legislation, which was approved at an Upper House plenary session, will take effect by the end of August. It aims to draw supermarkets, hospitals and high-density housing back to city centers.

The law will create a task force within the Cabinet to assess urban revitalization plans submitted by municipal governments across the country. Those that are deemed viable will receive central government support.

The government will judge the plans based on factors such as whether they have concrete targets to measure progress, and the degree of public involvement they generate.

The legislation includes provisions to support the construction of public facilities in urban centers, and to expand subsidies for urban renewal projects.

The law will also make it easier to open new supermarkets in vacant retail space, exempting them from the law regulating the location of large retail stores, which is designed to limit congestion, noise and other problems caused by large-scale retailers.

As part of its review of urban planning policies, on May 24, the government revised the City Planning Law, largely banning the construction of big new shopping malls and leisure facilities in suburban areas to prevent urban centers from being hollowed out.

The original City Planning Law, which took effect in 1968, made regulations on development in city centers stricter than in suburban areas, leading developers of large facilities to concentrate on suburban areas.

With the birthrate in decline, the central government has begun rethinking its urban planning policies to encourage the construction of public and commercial facilities in city centers.

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