Small stores are being driven out of town centres by chain stores, according to a new report, which has called for changes in planning laws to reverse the trend.

The research from the New Economic Foundation (NEF) entitled Clone Town Britain found 40% of the nation’s high streets are now ‘clone towns’, meaning the “individuality of high street stores has been replaced by a monochrome strip of global and national chains”, with a further 26% heading the same way.

The report puts forward the idea that the negotiation between developers and planners over granting planning permission could be extended to make retail developers guarantee affordable premises for locally-owned stores.

NEF policy director Andrew Simms said: “Clone stores have a triple affect on communities: they bleed the local economy of money; destroy the social glue provided by real local stores; and steal the identity of our towns and cities. By promoting local stores we can enhance diversity and increase the vitality and stability of local economies.”

Simms suggested the big four supermarkets should be limited to just 8% market share each. Tesco is now at 30%.