Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) chief executive James Lowman said at a meeting of MPs this week that the government had done nothing to deliver the coalition agreement commitment to create "a level playing field between small and large retailers".
The key policy initiatives that would deliver on the pledge have been rejected, while others remain confused or unimplemented, he said. For example, the government has twice rejected proposals raised in Parliament to give councils legal powers to promote retail diversity on high streets, and proposals for a 'competition test' that would prevent the proliferation of 'Tesco towns' show no sign of being implemented. Furthermore, neighbourhood planning reforms would fail to give communities enough power to determine which retailers open, he claimed. Neighbourhood planning trials were announced for 17 communities earlier in the year.
Lowman said: "Ministers have given repeated reassurances about the importance of high streets. However, this amounts to empty words if they don't bring in credible policy changes that put communities in charge."
The ACS claims that one year on from the promises made in the coalition agreement, almost one in six shops on the high street has been vacated, but the big four has opened 407 new stores and added more than five million square foot of new retail space.
"Ministers should enshrine powers to promote retail diversity into the Localism Bill and revisit proposals on neighbourhood planning to give communities more say," Lowman added.