A senior government minister has said that the removal of the 'need' test from planning policy guidelines will make it easier for local councils to block new supermarket developments.

Speaking at the ACS Heart of the Community seminar, communities and local government minister Iain Wright defended replacing the existing 'need' test with a new 'impact' test for planners.

"It is a strengthening, not a weakening, of our commitment to town centres, because it will make it easier for councils to turn down new developments," he said. "We see a stronger ongoing role for local authorities - they now have the opportunity to not just say yes or no, but to actively champion local shops."

He continued: "The need test isn't working. It has created a quagmire where planners are spending too much time weighing up minute fractions of new developments while missing the wider benefits and impacts.

"Our proposed revised impact test is an easier way to assess a new development - will it mean longer car journeys? How will it effect the young, or the old?"

He added: "Yes, major retailers can squeeze out small retailers but they can also attract money, people and jobs. The key is to get the balance right."