ACS (the Association of Convenience Stores) has called on peers to stand up for high streets during the debate of the Localism Bill in the House of Lords today.
High streets have suffered considerably during the recession with the closure of 12,000 independent shops, while multiples retailers like Tesco continue to up their expansion plans in a bid to dominate the market at the expense of smaller businesses, the ACS claims.
The Localism Bill proposes to radically change the planning system, scrapping regional planning and introduce local neighbourhood planning forums of residents, community groups and businesses.
ACS is calling for the introduction of a number of safeguards to support neighbourhood planning forums. These include:
- Ensuring the National Planning Policy Framework retains a robust town centre first policy and specifically retains the sequential test and economic impact assessments
- Place a duty on Local Authorities to develop a retail diversity scheme which promotes diversity and choice and creates the certainty and focus that retail businesses of all sizes need to invest and grow
- Extend the statutory duty to consult to require developers to fund external and independent analysis of the impact of their development proposal
James Lowman, ACS chief executive, said: “In the House of Commons, the Government blocked amendments to the Localism Bill that would promote high streets and town centres. They assured Parliament that these provisions would be made in the National Planning Policy Framework, but the Bill has progressed all the way to the Lords and we still haven’t seen this guidance.
“The future of sustainable, diverse high streets hangs in the balance and our members have waited long enough on the promise of a framework that still doesn’t exist. Peers in the House of Lords must act now and pass these amendments to close loopholes that big box retailers would exploit ruthlessly to build more out of town stores. The Bill must be Tesco-proofed.”