The British Property Federation has called on local planners to help pre-empt some of the concerns raised in today’s Competition Commission report on the UK grocery industry.

It said that local retail plans which establish where retail developments should go would ‘encourage vibrant and sustainable local and regional economies with a solid mix of both town-centre and out-of-town developments’.

The competition commission said in its preliminary report that the ‘planning system for retail development and the manner in which it is applied by local planning authorities also acts as a barrier to entry or expansion, by limiting construction of new stores on out-of-centre or edge-of-centre’.


Town Centre First policies
It recommended updating the planning system to ease development, but backed ‘maintaining constraints on out-of-town developments’.

Michael Chambers, BPF director for regeneration and development, said: ‘The BPF fully supports the ‘town centres first’ policy, but this can sometimes lead to anomalies, leaving areas outside the centre with limited competition. This policy has got to be flexible enough to overcome such problems.

‘Local retail plans that can identify likely problems would serve to do this. We should look to overcome any competition issues in advance.’


Calls for fascia test
The Town and Country Planning Association has also backed the report. Chief executive Gideon Amos said: ‘Importantly this report has not awarded a carte blanche to out of town development… Instead we should be more determined to ensure the competitive use of the many sites already allocated for retail. This means that in certain cases a 'fascia test' that considers a company's market share might need to be applied.’