The Association of Convenience Stores has called for the support of the influential Communities and Local Government Select Committee as it calls for Ministers to make crucial improvements to the new National Planning Policy Framework.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Our high streets face a watershed moment the economic downturn has coincided with a period of weak planning controls on out of town retail development and a new aggressive wave of supermarket expansion. The new planning policy framework is a critical factor in what happens in the future of our high streets.

“A policy that is weaker than its predecessors will entrench the shift from in-town to out-of-town retail investment; a robust policy can drive new investment and regeneration into our towns.

Recent figures have shown that more than 33 million square feet of new supermarket development in the pipeline is planned for out-of-town locations, whereas only eight million is planned in towns.

Lowman continued: “There is a strong lobby from big business to see planning controls as an inconvenience to be swept away and allow a development free-for-all. This is not a sustainable option for the retail sector. We need to channel the investment and growth available into the high street locations where it will have most benefit.

“We are asking MPs to ensure that the rules on town centres are clear and consistent; that town centres are seen as the sustainable development option and that the assessments required by national policy ensure that communities are furnished with the information they need to make decisions.

ACS submission was made in response to the CLG Committee’s call for evidence in its National Planning Policy Framework Inquiry. The Framework is also subject to wider public consultation until the 17th October.