Local Shops Warn Ministers of Perfect Storm Set to Hit the High Street
A PERFECT STORM of aggressive supermarket expansion, poor planning laws and low investment could wipe out hundreds of British high streets, ministers were warned today.
An analysis by the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) found hundreds of traditional high streets are under threat – and those that do survive will lose their individuality, creating a nation of ‘clone towns’.
ACS pointed to the aggressive expansion of the big four supermarkets – Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons. Figures show that these companies have secured 87% of all approved retail floor space permission since 2008.
ACS Chief Executive James Lowman, speaking at the Association’s Heart of the Community Conference, called for a fairer, more balanced approach to retail planning that ensures the survival of UK high streets.
Mr Lowman said: “Our high streets are under threat from a perfect storm as reduced investment; poorly applied planning rules and aggressive supermarket expansion converge to put hundreds at risk. Many of the town centres that do survive will become ‘clone towns’.
“Councils do not appear to be in control of this growth and ensure failing to direct it to the locations where it will bring most benefits. In too many examples across the country supermarkets are poorly planned, too big and located away from the existing centres, meaning that they destroy choice and close down high streets.”
These comments are made in light of recent evidence that show the following:
- More than 12,000 independent shops closed their doors in high streets across the country in 2009.
- In October 2010, town centre shop vacancy rates reached 14%
- The ‘big four’ supermarket companies have accounted for 87% of all retail development given planning approval since 2008, with Tesco alone taking up 60% of development approvals.
Mr Lowman continued: “Changes made to planning rules in December 2009 do not seem to be working as poor decisions are being made across the country.
“Supermarkets already account for 55p in every £1 spent in shops in the UK, and this year the big four supermarkets alone account for more than 87% of the new retail developed given planning approval. This tidal wave of expansion threatens to drown many areas, unless Government and Councils stand firm for the principles of town centre first, damaging short term decision making will take over the system”.
“We are keen to work with Government to protect the future of the high streets because this continuing level of decline cannot be ignored.”
Shane Brennan Public Affairs Director
01252 533009/ 07921 372978
Chris Noice Communications Assistant
Notes to Editors
1. ACS (Association of Convenience Stores) is the voice of local shops, representing over 33,500 convenience stores. ACS helps local shops strive through lobbying, support and networking opportunities
2. The Heart of the Community Seminar is ACS’ flagship political event, bringing together retailers from across the UK. The event is taking place at the Imperial War Museum and will feature a keynote speech from Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles.
3. Local Data Company Mid Year Report 2009 http://www.localdatacompany.com/storage/LDC-Mid-Year-Report-2009-mh.pdf
4. Local Data Company live figures: http://www.localdatacompany.com
5. Data from retail analysts Glenigan, appearing in the September 4 2010 edition of The Grocer (pages 12-13).
6. Planning Policy Statement 4: Planning for Sustainable Economic Growth can be found at http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/planningandbuilding/planningpolicystatement4
7. The Way We Pay 2010, (Payments Council) reports that 55p in every £1 is being spent in supermarkets in 2010, up from 48p in 1999. http://www.paymentscouncil.org.uk/files/payments_council/the_way_we_pay_2010_final.pdf