Proposals to give local government more power may give the superstores an easier ride through the planning process. Here’s how to be prepared

Across the UK, increasing numbers of independent retailers are having to deal with a new neighbour. And it's not someone you'll be welcoming with a cup of sugar, because they are there to solely take your business. Day by day Tesco and other multiple retailers are tightening their grip on our high streets, estates and shopping centres.

What can you do?
Get the facts
Find out how advanced the plans are, who is responsible in the council and what kind of development it is

Get organised
Work with other retailers, Residents' Associations and parish councils. Contact local journalists 

Do your homework
Gather as much information about trade in your area including number of shops, employment figures and footfall. Use this to demonstrate how local trade would be damaged

Prepare your case
Get an expert advocate if you can afford it. If not, go through the proposal yourself and work out the grounds for objecting. Often, a case can be made on grounds such as traffic.

Start your campaign Launch a petition and call a public meeting to gain attention. Attend developer meetings and lobby councillors, ward members, the planning committee and your MP 

Keep going
If the development is approved, write to your local government office seeking 'call-in'. If it is rejected, be prepared for an appeal from the supermarket
Speaking at the Heart of the Community seminar last week, Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman expressed concern that proposals to allow local authorities more power in the planning process may lead to more supermarket applications being approved. He believes that the decentralisation of decisions could lead to supermarkets be able to sway local government into giving projects the green light more easily, further damaging high street diversity.

Given that 87% of all retail floor space given planning permission since 2008 has been to the big four supermarkets, the UK is already on its way to becoming a collection of empty high streets and clone towns.

All is not lost, though, as there have been some victories for independent retailers when supermarkets have been refused planning permission. In Alton, Hampshire, the council turned down Tesco's application to build a 3,500sq m store 1.5 miles away from the town centre. The chain did appeal on several occasions, with the latest in May being refused on the grounds that it would cause "significant harm to the vitality and viability of the existing town centre".

In November 2009, Tesco withdrew an application for a development in Caernarfon in North Wales after planning officials advised the council that a new store would have an "unacceptable" impact on the town centre and that "little weight" should be attached to Tesco's claims that 275 jobs would be created.

To successfully challenge a large-scale planning application, it's important to work quickly. As soon as you hear that there may be an application, contact your local council to confirm it. If it is confirmed, organise an objection straight away. If you can't afford to hire a planning expert to work on one, it can be done yourself.

Preparation is key work out the grounds for your objection; this must fall under planning rules and you will have more of a chance of succeeding if you focus on one aspect of the proposal. Read through the application thoroughly, taking into account elements such as what impact it will have on businesses in the town centre, how realistic the job creation claims are, and how traffic will be affected.

It's important to note that planning officers won't take into account the effect a large store will have on an individual business, so it's vital that you work with like-minded residents and retailers and make it clear that a development would impact the entire community.

Once you've organised a group or committee, make plenty of noise about it. Launch a petition, get signatures, and find out the right person to send it to. Write to local councillors, the planning committee members, parish councillors and your MP.

When your objection has been lodged, it's important to keep the momentum going. Attend planning meetings and continue to raise public awareness.

Even if you are successful, be prepared for appeals. Sheringham in Norfolk saw a 14-year battle between Tesco and local residents that involved numerous objections and appeals. Tesco eventually won out, but the tenacity of independent retailers in the area should be admired.

If you follow their example and continue fighting, the tide may well turn against the supermarket giants.