C-Store is launching a new campaign called Fight your Corner. We will bring news of the many neighbourhoods around the UK which are resisting the advance of the multiple grocers. We will report on the tactics used by both sides and follow the development of planning legislation. Our aim is to build a toolkit to help local stores galvanise the support of their communities, publicise their value locally, and take full advantage of customers' resistance when the retail giants come to their doorstep.
More concerning is the government's announcement late last year of its planning policy, which includes the removal of the 'need test' for new retail development and replacing it with an impact assessment. Many see this as too vague and subjective for local councils to confidently commit public funds to fighting developments they believe are not in the local interest. PPS4 has started badly, with poor interpretation of the new rules in the case of a Cambridgeshire development leading to a dangerous precedent being set.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Small Shops recently called for a debate on the power wielded by the multiples, which is promising. They support government policy which promotes retail diversity, with room for large and small competitors, specialist retailers and independently owned stores. Also, in the past few weeks, a Labour MP has called for a 5% tax to be levied on supermarket profits.
But it's not just in grocery that competition problems affect c-stores; there are concerns over other restricted markets such as energy supply and newspaper and magazine distribution.
Replace the need test with an impact test "a more holistic approach"
Favour the town centre first approach through the requirement for applicants to look for the most central sites first (the sequential approach)
Require local authorities to protect and strengthen existing shops and "ensure their importance to the local community is taken into account when considering any development proposal that would result in their loss".
Undo Labour's changes to planning rules which "have weakened councils' ability to stop unwanted out-of-town development"
Ensure that a need test is re-adopted. "This will enable local councils to take competition issues into account when formulating their local plans"
Ensure sustainable developments take priority
Limit appeals against local planning decisions l David Cameron vows to "make sure we are doing everything to keep our high streets viable and our small shops open".
The Lib dems would introduce a local competition test for all planning applications for new retail developments "to establish a fairer balance between local independent stores and large supermarkets"
They also favour a system of Local Enterprise Funds and regional stock exchanges "to ensure small businesses get access to cost-effective equity that meets their needs".