Retailers may soon find it easier to install environmentally friendly technologies such as solar panels and wind turbines under changes to planning rules.
The government has asked Entec, an environmental and planning consultancy, to draw up new planning rules to ensure the system is doing more to encourage the use of renewable energy.
At present, businesses must go through the planning system to install small-scale technologies such as solar panels or wind turbines. Applications can be costly and take up to 16 weeks to be considered by councils, with no guarantee of approval.
The research could pave the way for small-scale developments to be waved through without planning permission where the benefits are outweighed by their impact on the local environment.
The government has also commissioned White Young Green Planning (WYGP) to carry out a wider investigation into which planning reforms are needed to make it easier for businesses to build extensions or make improvements. WYGP will look at whether the need for planning permission can be removed for minor developments such as small-scale extensions and changes to shopfronts, where they have little impact on neighbouring properties or the local environment.
Mid-Counties Co-op is just one retailer to have introduced initiatives and technologies to make its store estate more environmentally friendly.
Energy and environment manager at Mid-Counties John Mathias said: "We welcome any move to encourage retailers to adopt greener policies. We believe all retailers should take their environmental responsibility seriously. This is something we are striving to do."
Communities secretary Hazel Blears added: "This government is committed to bringing forward changes that will allow us to tackle the growing challenge in climate change. This research will be crucial to working out how we can support the business world to do its bit, as we move to a zero-carbon culture."