The Competition Appeal Tribunal’s (CAT) decision to uphold Tesco’s appeal against a 'competition test' for new retail development will hinder the implementation of a planning policy, the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) believes.
The supermarket giant successfully challenged the test, which was one of the remedies suggested by the Competition Commission (CC) in its recent investigation into the groceries market, through the CAT process. Tesco argued that the CC had failed to carry out a proper cost-benefit analysis of the proposed test, and that it could prevent an established retailer expanding its operations in a particular location to meet customer demand.
ACS chief executive James Lowman expressed his dismay at the decision.
He said: “We are disappointed that Tesco’s appeal against the planning competition test has succeeded. This decision will mean yet more delay in the implementation of an effective town centre first planning policy.”
Lowman also called for new retail planning policy to be created despite the decision. “We need a clear robust retail planning policy that resists harmful out of town development and gives power to local people to build vital and vibrant centres for their community,” he continued. “This result must not derail work towards an effective policy and ACS will continue to work for diverse, vibrant and vital centres.”
He also criticised the Competition Commission for not implementing any of the other measures that its Inquiry concluded were necessary for a fairer grocery market.
The Competition Commission defended its position on a competition test, saying that the decision has not challenged the rationale for a test to tackle local supermarkets monopolies or its design.
“The appeal was upheld on the narrow grounds that certain considerations about the test would work and its cost and benefits should have been explored further,” said the Commission in a statement. It added that it would study the ruling before deciding on a future course of action.