The Conservative Party's Small Shops Commission has released its interim report with recommendations to halt the decline of specialist and independent retailers. 

In the report Disappearing Britain the Commission says: "The Conservative Party believes that it is time to stand up for small retailers and recognise the vital role they play in our communities. To the most vulnerable members of our society in particular, the large out-of-town retail parks just cannot replace the accessible, often personal service offered by local traders."

Launching the report, Conservative leader David Cameron said: "Small shops are the lifeblood of local economies and provide a lifeline to local residents, and their survival is vital." He called on local councils to "use their clout" to keep these shops open.

The Commission's interim recommendations include making high-street vitality a bigger priority in planning decisions; encouraging councils and businesses to tackle retail crime and neighbourhood decline; and protection of the need test for new planning applications which it says is "essential for the survival of small retailers in town centres and high streets".

ACS chief executive James Lowman, a member of the Commission, said: "One of the themes running through the evidence we collected was support for retaining the need test to promote the diversity of town centres, and ACS is pleased to see this highlighted."