Three-quarters of the public would like to see a mix of independent and multiple retailers in their town centre and the same number opposes changes in planning laws that would make it easier to build out-of-town supermarkets, a new survey has revealed.

Two-thirds of those surveyed in a poll carried out by GFK-NOP on behalf of the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) also believed they should have more say in deciding whether a supermarket could open in their community.

The results suggest that public opinion differs from the Competition Commission's view that building more supermarkets would provide consumers with sufficient choice, and come in advance of the government's recommendations for the future of 'town centre first' planning policy, due in the next few weeks.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: "Public opinion is clearly against any move to liberalise planning laws regulating out-of-town shopping centres. It is important that government understands that not only is there a consensus of opinion among environmental, social and consumer champions, but the public also agree. 

"We will ensure that the government and MPs are well aware of the strength of feeling on this issue."
The phone survey of 1,000 people revealed that 64% of respondents felt that out-of-town retail developments harmed town centres, and 57% agreed that it was too easy for supermarkets to build new stores. Some 77% said they would like their town centre to include a mix of stores, from large chains to small independents.

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