Planning minister Iain Wright has promised to protect high street retailers with changes to planning laws that will ‘promote competition and improve consumer choice’.

Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Wright said the government will soon publish a revised version of PPS6, the planning policy for town centres. ‘Small independent retailers remain at the heart of our vision for town centres,’ he said.

The new PPS6 will replace the existing need and impact tests with a new impact test for retail developments which Wright claimed will ‘enable local authorities to assess more effectively the impact of out-of-town development proposals on town centres’.

Planning White Paper

Abolition of the needs test was first signalled in last year’s Planning White Paper, following an interim report by the Competition Commission on the grocery market. The commission recommended that planning applications for new supermarkets should undergo a competition test, to prevent any one retailer from becoming too dominant in one location.

Wright stressed that the government would wait for the commission’s final report on 8 May before taking action.

Under threat

He was responding to complaints by Martin Linton, Labour MP for Battersea, south London, who said the diversity of shops on Northcote Road in his constituency was under threat. ‘National chains want to move in and cash in on the street’s popularity. Landlords are responding by raising rents, with the result that they are threatening the very shops that make the street popular,’ said Linton.