Lobby urges system to limit Tesco domination

Calls for planning guidance to be strengthened to stop retail giant Tesco from dominating high streets were made last week as MPs began an investigation into the future of the high street.

Tesco told the all-party parliamentary group for small shops that it plans to double its convenience stores to 1,200 in the next ten years.

Corporate and legal affairs director Lucy Neville-Rolfe said that a Tesco-sponsored study of four communities in Hampshire found that opening small Tesco Express stores encourages shoppers to buy goods locally and to walk and cycle to the shops.

But Friends of the Earth (FoE) claimed that Tesco's plans to open more than 100 stores and expand its existing shops will undermine local traders and businesses. It called for a change in planning policy and a code of practice to stop the supermarket from taking over high streets.

FoE supermarket campaigner Robin Webster said: "PPS6 has explicit encouragement of large-format stores on high streets, but not the counterbalance of encouraging small independent shops. Planning has a strong role to play in this, as does competition law." The campaign group added that around 100 planning disputes have taken place this year over Tesco applications.

But Chris Goddard, planning and regeneration partner at GVA Grimley, said that the planning system is not there to protect one retailer against another. "It is a bit perverse to condemn Tesco and others for going into the high street when they are only responding to planning guidance," he added.

The Office of Fair Trading will reconsider its decision not to recommend a competition inquiry into the grocery market after a challenge by the Association of Convenience Stores at a tribunal last week.

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