According to a senior planning source, Asda has joined forces with leading retailers including Next, Ikea, B&Q and Kingfisher to lobby the government to amend planning policy to enable businesses to expand out of town and stimulate economic growth.
"The supermarket that has the most to say over this issue is Asda," said a source. "They are very vocal in saying that Town Centre First (TCF) planning policy restricts their ability to compete with Tesco. If it comes down to who wants to get rid of TCF, then Asda are the archetypal zealots."
At its full-year results presentation this week, Asda CEO Andy Clarke pointed to the negative impact on Asda's growth, saying: "We have opened less space than some of our competitors. It is a challenge to our number two position in food."
The Grocer understands that retailers such as Boots and Waitrose are backing a continued protection of town centres. Retail is one of the key pillars of the coalition's growth strategy, further details of which are expected to be included in the Budget on 23 March. Supporters of the current TCF policy fear that in order to encourage growth the government will relax the planning restrictions in the National Planning Policy Framework, a draft of which is due in June.
"The NPPF is key" said ACS public affairs director Shane Brennan. "The Budget will indicate which way the wind is blowing."
Meanwhile the ACS is claiming a victory in its battle to reinforce TCF after Greg Clark, the decentralisation and localism minister, confirmed at the first stage of amendments being proposed to the Localism Bill that TCF policy should be "strengthened and clarified."
The ACS said the news was "a huge step forward and one that retailers will find very reassuring," adding that it will "continue to fight for amendments to be adopted into legislation."