Aside from cuts, the coalition government has arguably become most associated with two policy areas on a domestic level: The Big Society and localism. Yet there is one charge which is commonly levelled against these agendas: inconsistency. On the one hand ministers want to hand down more power to local communities, and on the other they introduced a ‘new presumption in favour of sustainable development’ in this year’s Budget. The government also recently turned down a proposed amendment to the Localism Bill that would require developers to consult with communities with objective information. ACS chief executive James Lowman warned that, without the amendment, “developer consultations will continue to be nothing more than PR campaigns for developments.” 

However, the localism agenda is also very much in its infancy, and retailers now have an opportunity to help fl esh it out. Seventeen communities have received £20,000 to spearhead a trial of neighbourhood planning, which will be introduced under the Localism Bill. These are early days, and many of the selected councils are looking for guidance from local businesses and residents on how to move forward. Once a neighborhood plan has been decided, councils could then adopt it as local policy - so it’s an ideal chance for retailers to have their say in protecting local shops. When the Localism Bill becomes law, this could apply to every community in the country. 

What you can do:
● If you are based in a ‘front
runner’ community, contact
your local planning authority or
community group and ask how
you can get involved in the
● Contact local councillors and
community groups about
participating in neighborhood
planning decisions once the
Localism Bill becomes law
● Write to your MP to
encourage them to sign up to
the ACS-backed early day
motion 1453 - Future of High
Streets - which calls for a
statutory duty to promote
sustainable high streets in the
Localism Bill

And given the rude health of the multiples, the protection of local high streets within planning law is as vital as ever. Last week Tesco once again revealed some startling fi gures in its 2010-11 preliminary results - total group sales were £67.5bn, producing pre-tax profi t of £3.8bn. As well as being a successful retailer, Tesco is an increasingly clever operator in the property market, creating property profi ts of around £250m per year while at the same time increasing its asset base. 

This gives the giant even more funds to expand its store numbers. The 2010/11 prelims showed that Tesco’s capital expenditure in the UK was £1.7bn last year, delivering 2.8 million sq ft (gross) of new space. 

But there is a further worrying aspect to these fi gures. Like for like sales, while still a substantial £40.1bn, were down by 0.2%. In other words, new store development is the main engine for growth for Tesco’s business in the UK, so we can expect no let up in its building programme. 

At the same time, Sainsbury’s is also intent on accelerating its programme of convenience store development. Having opened 51 convenience stores during 2009/10, the company plans to extend its estate by a further 75-100 more outlets this year, which will take its holding up to near the 400 mark. The supermarket chain has opened three new c-stores in the last fortnight alone, with new sites in Cambridge, Tonbridge in Kent and Ealing, West London. 

But with your help, the future high street doesn’t have to look like this.