Ministers have failed to convince local shops that their new high streets planning policy will promote town centres and protect small shops.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Ministers have claimed today that the new planning policy is tougher, will promote town centres and protect small shops, but the detail does not match the rhetoric.

“This new policy will weigh heavily on under-resourced planning departments in local councils, who will have to interpret and implement a policy that is ambitious, contradictory and highly subjective.”

“Ministers have a long way to go to convince us that the new policy will be effective in preventing the highly resourced and determined supermarkets from imposing unwanted new developments on communities.”

The main specific concern that arises from the new policy is the removal of the ‘need test’ for new retail development. This decision has been widely criticised by planning professionals and MPs (most recently by the Communities and Local Government Select Committee.)

Mr Lowman commented: “The decision to remove the need test, in face of opposition from experts in the planning community and from parliament is a huge error. The replacement impact assessment remains far too vague and subjective for Councils to be able to implement effectively“

Recent reports have shown the extent to which supermarket developers have increased their development activity in recent months and many fear that an acceleration in supermarket development across the UK will lead to further consolidation and undermine the character of town centres.

Mr Lowman continued: “We also have to be concerned that Ministers are imposing this upheaval during a critical period when short term decisions to allow investment in cheaper out of centre developments such as supermarkets built by Tesco, Sainsbury and Asda for example could undermine more difficult town centre projects which Ministers have made clear are meant to be the priority.