Planning authorities should take account of a brand's proposition before deciding whether or not to grant permission for a new store, Marks and Spencer has told the Competition Commission's grocery market inquiry.

In its submission, published alongside its rivals' on the Commission's website, M&S calls for a more "qualitative" approach, based on the nature of a retailer's offer.

At present, the 'needs test' applied by an authority before granting permission for a new store on the edge of or out of town is not sensitive to different fascias. Instead a decision is made solely on whether an area needs more supermarket space.

This has drawn criticism because it doesn't take into account if a retailer has a dominant position in a market already. Morrisons, in its submission, says: "Inability to distinguish between different fascias is a fundamental flaw."

But M&S, which is desperate to find new sites to grow its successful Simply Food concept, has suggested that new stores should be allowed on the basis that they offer consumers something different in terms of experience and range.

In its submission, M&S states: "The [needs] test fails to recognise the distinctions between the offer of different retailers and different retail formats."

Changing the rules to consider a retailer's offer could make it easier for retailers perceived to be upmarket - such as M&S, Waitrose and, soon, Whole Foods Market - to open new stores in some areas where there are already several mainstream supermarkets. But the idea attracted a lukewarm reception from rivals.

A spokesman for Asda, which in its submission suggests abolishing the needs test, said: "I can understand why M&S may want that, but how would you define it?."

Tesco company secretary Lucy Neville-Rolfe said she was not sure whether the consumer would necessarily be the winner if a quality proposition was included within the planning process.