Three quarters of the public are opposed to any changes in UK planning law that would make it easier to build out-of-town supermarkets. The figure comes from a survey carried out by GFK-NOP on behalf of the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS). The poll also found that choice was top of the list for shoppers visiting town

centres, with 77% saying they wanted a mix of branded retailer, independents and market stalls.

In addition, more than 66% believe they are not given enough say in such planning decisions.

The ACS warned the findings sent a powerful signal to the government as it prepared to publish its recommendations for the future of “Town Centre First” planning policy in the next few weeks.

Other findings from the survey, for which 1,000 adults were interviewed in the UK between January 11th and 13th, included the fact that 64% of people think large out-of-town shopping centres and supermarkets are harmful to town centres.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Public opinion is clearly against any move to liberalise planning laws regulating out-of-town shopping centres. It is important that government understands that not only is there a consensus of opinion among environmental, social and consumer champions, but the public also agree. This gives further momentum to our campaign at a critical time.

“Ministers have been very clear in their public commitment to a strong town-centre-first policy – as the time approaches to reveal detailed plans we are pressing for the detail to match their rhetoric. We will ensure that government and MPs are well aware of the strength of feeling on this issue.”

Lowman added that the findings were a timely reminder to the Competition Commission that building more supermarkets was not the way to increase choice for customers. He said people wanted different types of shopping experiences, not just more “clone” stores. Other groups such as Friends of the Earth, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, the National Federation of Women’s Institute and the Food Access Network are also involved in the campaign to keep a healthy mix of shops on the high street, and are working together to provide consultation on proposed changes to planning policy.

Lowman said: “Working with other organisations, we have set out a powerful and clear-sighted vision for how policy can best meet the objective of promoting vital and vibrant town centres. We believe that the weight of public opinion is on our side.”