A plan to get local businesses to finance covered spaces for teenagers as a means to tackle anti-social behaviour has received a stinging response from retailers.

Speaking at a meeting of MPs, community groups, council and police chiefs, the pressure group Keep Britain Tidy, which is behind the plan, said that unless kids were given a safe, well-lit and accessible place to be with their friends they would continue to congregate in public places and heighten the fear of crime.

Keep Britain Tidy chief executive Alan Woods said: “Because c-stores are at the heart of the community, are sheltered and sell food, youths gravitate toward them. This has resulted in precincts becoming our most littered area and residents fearing to visit the store after dark. Move the teens and clean-up your premises and customers will come back in their droves.”

However, the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has called on the pressure group to take a “reality check”. Public affairs manager James Lowman said: “Retailers on tight margins cannot be expected to fund social projects.”