Budget reaction: ACS warns against creating planning loopholes

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ACS (the Association of Convenience Stores) has welcomed the focus on retail growth and the reduction in fuel duty in today’s Budget but has expressed concern about the implications of planning liberalisation.

On the topic of growth review, the ACS said: “We welcome the focus on retail growth in this Budget. Local shops are a weathervane of the recovery their success creates jobs and generate economic confidence within our communities. Measures suggested such as giving businesses more certainty around future increases in the national minimum wage, continued small business rate relief and the extension of primary authority schemes for enforcement all have the potential to make a real difference for local shops.”

On planning, the Association said: “Radical changes to planning must not override the ability of Councils to plan for strong and sustainable high streets. Existing planning rules do not stop retail investment but they do steer it into the areas where it will benefit most. Reforms must not put this at risk. Supermarkets secure planning approval for hundreds of new supermarkets every year. Reforms such as enterprise zones and land auctions must not create loopholes that allow Councils and developers to ignore the threat to high streets and consumer choice from ill-conceived out of town supermarket schemes. We welcome Ministers commitments within the retail growth review (published alongside the Budget) to build on Town Centre First Policy and invigorate high streets. We will work with Ministers to ensure that the priorities of planning reform are balanced with promoting high streets.

On fuel duty, it said: “ACS welcomes the decision to reduce fuel duty this year. The spiraling cost of fuel has already led to over 10,000 petrol stations closing in the last decade the decrease will give some relief to the thousands of community businesses selling fuel across the country.”

And on tobacco duty, the ACS said: “The dramatic rise in tobacco duty, especially for roll your own tobacco, will drive consumers away from legitimate retailers into a dangerous illegal trade. This trade costs the taxpayer billions every year and already accounts for 20% of all tobacco consumed in the UK. This persistent policy of making UK tobacco more expensive than most other countries in Europe means we need a new and credible strategy for catching and deterring those selling cigarettes on our streets.”