Convenience stores are being encouraged to influence new neighbourhood planning powers after communities across the country received government money to trial the ‘localism’ initiative. 

Seventeen communities will receive £20,000 to trial neighbourhood planning, which is being introduced under the Localism Bill to empower local people to determine the locations of new developments, including shops. Under the plans, councils will have to adopt a Neighbourhood Plan if approved by a local referendum – providing the plan is in line with wider ambitions for growth in the area.

In the south London borough of Sutton, the council is working with a community forum to develop Hackbridge as a ‘sustainable suburb’. This includes developing a district shopping centre to meet local needs. 

Neighbourhood forums in Bermondsey, another London ‘front runner’ alongside Southwark Council, are urging local retailers to get involved. Andrew Richardson, a spokesman for the Bankside Residents’ Forum, said small shops were an “integral part of our plans”. He insisted it was too early to agree how best to involve small retailers, but they would have an opportunity to shape the Neighbourhood Plan. “We want to find out what they see as important,” he said. 

“We hope to do a lot more promotion of small shops and business through Better Bankside, our local business improvement district. A key approach has been to do walkabouts to highlight the range of shops we’ve got to new residents. Everyone wants a balanced retail offer.”  

A spokesman for Bristol City Council, which will be working with the Lockleaze community, also urged retailers to get on board. “Convenience stores are valued by local communities, so the ideas of these store operators could be an important contribution in the drawing up of a neighbourhood plan.”

Other pilot areas include: Balsall Heath in Birmingham; North Shields Fish Quay; Banbury, Oxfordshire; Ringmer, East Sussex; Dawlish, Devon; Cerne Abbas, west Dorset; Bray, near Windsor; and Cockermouth, Cumbria.