The government has dismissed a recommendation by MPs to monitor the extent to which local authorities are protecting town centres under the National Planning Policy Framework.

The Communities and Local Government select committee had called on the government to gather data about the operation of the sequential test, which prioritises town centre retail development over out of town, and how planning policies are protecting town centres.

However, the government said it was for “local authorities to apply the sequential test and assure themselves that the ‘town centre first’ approach has been followed”.

The committee also recommended reinstating policies to ensure that developers are being as flexible as possible to fit new development in town centre locations, but the government said the NPPF was clear on the primacy of town centres.

Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman said: “The government’s response has failed to address the ongoing issues with town centre first planning. The framework put in place by government is simply not working to deliver new retail developments in town centres, with 76% of retail floorspace approved under the NPPF allocated in out of town locations.

“We welcome that the government has taken a big step in writing to all local authorities and reaffirming the ‘town centre first’ policy, but local authorities still need to apply the sequential test and impact assessment properly, ensuring developers are flexible with the size and location of new developments.”

Select committee chairman Clive Betts MP also expressed his disappointment at the government’s response: “We actually welcomed the NPPF as a step forward, but recommended some adjustments to ensure it addressed the growing number of concerns about unsustainable development. Sadly, the government’s response shows it is burying its head in the sand about these important public concerns,” he said.