MPs have launched an inquiry into the operation of the National Planning Policy Framework and its impact on town centres.

The Communities and Local Government Committee’s inquiry follows concerns that the NPPF has been “failing town centres” since its introduction in 2012.

Research published by the committee found that some local planning authorities may have been meeting the government’s planning performance targets despite displaying poor practice.

Committee chair Clive Betts MP said: “The research suggests that government planning performance targets may be driving perverse behaviour. This is especially worrying as the research also finds that a focus on good practice in local planning authorities is required if the NPPF is to be fully effective.”

The inquiry will scrutinise the operation of the NPPF in its first two year, focusing on its impact on town centres and other areas.

The NPPF is designed to protect town centres from out of town retail development, but recent research found that 76% of retail floorspace given planning approval since 2012 was located outside town centres - based on a sample of 50 case studies.

Independent planning consultant Jonathan Baldock, who carried out the research, told MPs recently that town centres had been “going backwards in retail terms” since the NPPF’s introduction.

“We need a monitoring system for it,” he said.