The Association of Convenience Stores has called for stronger guidance and enforcement of town centre-first planning rules in its submission to a select committee inquiry into the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

MPs on the Communities and Local Government select committee launched an inquiry into the operation of the NPPF last month. The ACS is calling on the government to take action to support high streets and curb the development of out-of-town retail parks.

Research conducted by the ACS at the end of last year showed that since the NPPF came into effect in 2012, 76% of all approved floor space was located out of town.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “‘Town centre first’ has become a slogan rather than a planning policy. It is not being properly applied by many councils, and the government is not defending it.  As a result, we are seeing a wave of approvals for out of town developments that will damage high streets.

“We are calling on ministers to call in developments that do not meet town centre first principles, and to issue further guidance to embed this approach. The Communities and Local Government select committee must take this chance to shine a light on the problems in the planning system.”

The ACS is calling on the government to take the following specific steps:

  • Support local authorities to deliver the town centre first objective of the national planning framework
  • Ensure that call in powers are used appropriately to maintain consistency in policy at a local and national level
  • Introduce a central monitoring framework for town centre-first planning policy that shows where new developments are located
  • Publish a letter to chief planning officers on the correct interpretation of town centre-first policy
  • Provide further training and advice to local authorities on how to use available resources to attract investment from retailers in town centres

The committee is due to meet in the coming months to evaluate the effectiveness of the NPPF.