The EU Commission’s decision to take a backseat on member states’ planning policies has been welcomed by the retail industry.
Adopted as part of the Commission’s European Retail Action Plan, which it hopes will “enhance the sector’s economic, environmental and social performance”, it pledged to simply “monitor progress achieved in the application of commercial and spatial planning rules”.
The Plan also promised to promote the exchange of best practices between member states on commercial planning.
Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) chief executive James Lowman welcomed the Commission’s decision. “ACS has consistently opposed EU intervention in the planning rules laid down by ministers in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales,” he said. “Striking the right balance between the economic, social and environmental impacts of development are and should always be a matter for communities, influenced by democratically set national policies. This is very much the case for the town centre first policy that governs retail planning throughout the UK.”
There had been some concerns over the Commission being lobbied by large organisations to intervene in national government and local council planning decisions.
Lowman did warn against future intervention sparked by lobbying pressure. “However we remain cautious and vigilant because the Commission continues to be lobbied by powerful multi-national retail companies that believe that the EU should overrule national planning rules that prevent them from opening stores wherever they want.”