Sir; The Competition Commission is looking closely at the 'town centre first' planning policy as part of its inquiry, including consideration of the Barker Review of land use planning ('Grocery inquiry set to hear Tesco', The Grocer, 7 October, p7) which takes the view that putting town centres first is bad for retail productivity.

Friends of the Earth fundamentally disagrees. A return to the laissez-faire attitude to out-of-town retail development of the 1980s would be a disaster for the economic health of our town centres as well as the last nail in the coffin for many individual retail businesses. It would also be a disaster for the environment, fuelling more car-dependent shopping. A new rash of out-of-town supermarkets will also damage rather than improve consumer choice. Real choice requires a diverse range of independents and specialists to be able to flourish alongside the multiples.

Friends of the Earth is urging the Competition Commission to defend the 'town centre first' policy. Shoppers and independent retailers worried about the future of the business would be wise to do the same. Choice should not be between an out-of-town Asda and an out-of-town Tesco!