An influential group of MPs has called for significant changes to the draft national planning policy framework (NPPF) in a bid to curtail out-of-town development.

The communities and local government select committee has urged the government to remove a default answer of ‘yes’ to sustainable development from the NPPF. It said the phrase ‘significant and demonstrably’ must also be removed from the presumption that all planning applications should be approved unless the adverse effects ‘significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits’.

Association of Convenience Stores public affairs director Shane Brennan welcomed the report from the “very powerful” group of MPs, who had “listened carefully to what we’ve said to them”. He said it demonstrated the building momentum towards tightening up the NPPF in favour of ‘town centre first’ policy. “The default answer to development should be ‘no’,” he added.

The committee said the NPPF defines ‘sustainable development’ inadequately and has suggested a definition more inclusive of social and environmental considerations. It also said local planning decisions should be consistent with local plans.

The MPs’ report coincided with new research showing supermarkets will increase trading space by 50% if all their planning applications are approved. More than 80% of the new space will be in out-of-town developments, according to the analysis by commercial property adviser CBRE. In its report, the CBRE said the current economic conditions were forcing councils in the worst affected areas to be much more supportive of commercial development activity generally.

Brennan said the NPPF “would not be successful” if such a high proportion of future development is out of town. However, he said he was optimistic about the content of the final NPPF, which is due for publication in March.