The Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA), which represents 600 independent retailers, has renewed its call for the government to publish its retail planning policy. The policy was originally due to be published in February 2005.
The calls come after planning permission for a major out-of- town development at Sprucefield, near Lisburn - anchored by a John Lewis store - was quashed by the high court.
NIIRTA chief executive Brian Gray said that the lack of an up-to-date planning policy had created a vacuum that could be exploited by developers to the detriment of independent retailers.
Gray argued: "Everyone knows, given the recent stories about the large supermarkets on the mainland UK, that they will not have any worries about riding roughshod over our towns and villages. If we want to stop the rot then we must begin by publishing a planning policy that is fair to all."