The government’s localism agenda took a giant step forward last week when its Localism Bill was given Royal Assent, although communities will be frustrated by the limits to their powers, according to the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS).

The newly passed Localism Act aims to give more rights to communities and create a “more democratic” planning system.

ACS public affairs director Shane Brennan said there would be “opportunities and threats” to retailers from the Act. He welcomed last-minute amendments to the Community Right to Buy, which will reduce the harm for retailers wishing to sell property to their peers, but said the jury was still out on the efficacy of neighbourhood planning powers.

“Communities still won’t be able to prevent the proliferation of clone towns, or Tesco Express stores opening,” he said. “We still need further action to make localism real for communities. There must be a way found to stop these things happening.”

However, he remains optimistic the government will make changes to the National Planning Policy Framework, due to be published in April, in order to protect high streets from out-of-town growth.

The development came as government-appointed retail adviser Mary Portas praised the outcome of a meeting with the shadow cabinet, which is calling for the introduction of a competition test to level the playing field between independents and large retailers.

Portas’ high street review is due to be published by the end of the year.