A new consultation paper on town centre planning has prompted the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) to question the government's support for local shops.

The government hopes that the consultation paper, Planning Policy Statement 4: Planning for Prosperous Economies, will create a set of policies to meet current economic challenges.

However, ACS chief executive James Lowman said the policy highlighted a lack of government concern about local retailers.

"The confusion and shifting goal posts that we have seen in the past three years of town centre policy development make us uneasy about the priorities of government," said Lowman. "In particular, ministerial commitments on the importance of local shops and of diversity in the previous incarnation of the policy are absent from the latest draft. We are seeking reassurances that these remain the government's policies."

Lowman told a Communities and Local Government select committee that "without robust guidance that sets out clearly when out of town supermarkets are harmful to town centres, local authorities are at the whim of large developers".