Out of town superstores back on the agenda.
They have to demonstrate the scheme would provide shops and services that are not already available in nearby town centres. However, the Barker Report proposes that this vital safeguard is abandoned. Separately, she also suggests that local councils or the Office of Fair Trading could be given powers to pick and choose which retailers are allowed to open new or extended stores.
Friends of the Earth supermarkets campaigner Sandra Bell said: 'The removal of the needs test on developers of new out-of-town stores and malls would be devastating for the traditional high street. It will inevitably make the building of these malls and supermarkets much easier. That will suck the lifeblood from small stores and town centres.'
The New Economics Foundation is concerned that the increasing dominance of the big chains is creating a nation of 'cloned towns'. Policy director, Andrew Simms, complained: 'The watering down of local planning and decision-making power is a charter for clone towns, wildly out of touch with what people want. This is like a throw-back to the bad old days of the 1980s when the wishes of local people and their councillors were swept aside in favour of what the supermarkets wanted.'
Tesco welcomed attemps to drop the needs test. A spokesman said: 'We have always said that the needs test is a source of complexity and cost to business.We would be happy to see it go.'