Local MP speaks out for small shops

November 23, 2007 10:00 AM
Local shops on Station Road

Local shops on Station Road

Mark Hunter, MP for the Cheadle constituency, has criticized the Competition Commission over its proposal to revise planning laws to make it easier to secure planning permission for new supermarkets. At a meeting of the All party Small Shops Group in Parliament this week, Mr Hunter quizzed the Grocery Market Inquiry Director, Andrew Taylor, who is currently conducting this inquiry for the Competition Commission.

The Commission is planning to make recommendations to relax the controls local planning authorities have on new supermarkets obtaining planning permission. However, according to figures from the Commission, since June 2001 two supermarkets (over 280 square meters) have been built in the UK each week, all by established national supermarket chains. Mr Hunter questioned the Director, arguing that to save small shops the planning system needed to be tightened - not made weaker - to stop big supermarket chains being able to create new superstores even more easily than they currently do.

Speaking after the meeting Mr Hunter said: "I am very concerned about the fate of small shops on our high streets, and I know local residents are as well - many have contacted me to express concern about the future of small shops in our area and the domination of the big supermarkets.

The Commission's recommendation to free-up planning regulations is the worst possible option as this will ensure that big supermarkets are allowed to continue their ever increasing domination of the UK retail sector, and will only lead to further damage to our high street. Big companies are already able to manipulate the system, as is obvious by the fact that two supermarkets per week are being built in the UK. They do not need a further inbuilt advantage that would make it even easier to build more. It is the small businesses we should be worried about, and I am unconvinced that this inquiry will do anything to reverse the decline of independent small shops in the UK.

I believe local residents should have more shopping choice on their high street. We need to do more to support local and long-established small shops such as bakers and butchers. These shops are a vital part of our community and more should be done to protect them from the big supermarkets chains that continue to dominate."

James Lowman, Chief Executive of the Association of Convenience stores said: ""The planning system currently works in favour of the existing national level grocery retailers and that this stops small retailers investing or expanding. There is no evidence that weakening the local authorities' ability to restrict unwanted supermarket development will mean that more small retailers will be able to expand, nor that this would lead to anything other than the growth and entrenched dominance of the existing national retail companies. "

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