Campaigners for the independent sector have launched a counter-offensive following a recommendation that the 'needs test' for proposed supermarket developments should be removed.

The Barker Review of Land Use Planning, published in December, suggests that it should not be appropriate to turn down commercial developments on the basis that there is no need for them. It states: "This is simply likely to result in more limited choice and higher prices in stores - it restricts the expansion of stores beyond the town centre that could enter the market without harming the town centre itself."
However, many groups feel that the needs test is a necessary check on the expansion of the supermarket chains.
The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has contacted more than 200 MPs in order to raise small retailers' concerns. ACS chief executive James Lowman said: "The test is a vital part of national planning policy that promotes sustainable retail development, and many believe that removing it would damage town centres and small independent stores that play a vital role.
"We have taken our concerns to MPs and are asking them to support our campaign to maintain the test. We believe they will agree with us that it should be Local Authorities and local people that decide whether an area needs a supermarket, rather than the supermarket developers themselves."
A government White Paper on planning is due in March.

Tesco opened half of the four million sq ft of new retail floor space in 2006, a report by retail consultancy Verdict Research has found.
Stephen Alambritis, spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses, described the trend as very worrying. "We have huge concerns about this. It cannot be good if people end up shopping in four or five major outlets."

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