ACS welcomes Conservatives’ commitment to reinstate planning need test

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ACS (the Association of Convenience Stores) has welcomed the commitment in the Conservative Planning Green Paper to reinstate the ‘need test’ and tighten up restrictions on harmful out-of-town retail development.

The abolition of the ‘need test’ by the Government in the publication of Planning Policy Statement 4 in December 2009 has been criticised by many for loosening the reins on large format out-of-town and edge of centre supermarket development. The test helped to indicate where a proposed store would take away trade from existing town and secondary retail centres and undermine their viability.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We welcome the commitments made in this Green paper. The removal of the need test was backward step in retail planning policy that are vital to the unique identity of our town centres. Much of the new PPS4 is to be welcomed, but the removal of the needs test was a mistake, and we would like to see the Conservatives, if elected, insert the need test into this policy.”

Lowman said there will be a strong temptation for councils, under pressure from large developers, to free up out-of-town development at the end of a recession. Government policy should promote retail diversity where there is room for large and small competitors, specialist retailers and independently owned stores, he said.

“This announcement is an indication that politicians are listening to the concerns of local shops and is another milestone in a long running ACS campaign to ensure that the planning system is fit for the future challenges facing retailers and communities.”