In recent weeks, I’ve talked about the contradictions that exist between the government’s desire to tame inflation, cut costs, increase taxes and cure the nation of its binge-drinking habits. All in the same flame-throwing breath.
It’s not the only chimera the coalition is chasing. In the unlikely figure of Eric Pickles, the coalition is currently in huffpuff pursuit of the decentralisation of power, via The Localism Bill that’s currently before parliament.
For neighbourhood retailers, and the individuals, communities and councils it is wishing to empower, the Localism Bill is an exciting prospect. It promises “a radical reboot of the planning system, including neighbourhood planning”.
At the same time, in the week that the Nocton superdairy withdrew its planning application, there is concern that the Localism Bill will give rise to ‘nimbyism’ when it comes to industrial and business development.
And here’s the rub. While David ‘Big Society’ Cameron is promising neighbourly good deeds, inclusiveness and through the Localism Bill empowerment of the individual, Chancellor George ‘Hatchet’ Osborne is expected, in his budget, to cut red tape and free up businesses and big retailers in particular to overcome planning constraints. He needs to in order for his government to deliver a private sector-led recovery.
The issues at stake are thrown into sharp relief by The Grocer’s Hot 100 ranking of Britain’s c-stores. On the eve of the National Convenience Show and the ACS Summit, it’s no exaggeration to suggest the future of the retail landscape will be decided before our very eyes over the next few weeks.
The fact that our survey found so many Tesco c-stores on our Hot 100 list, and contained no stores in major cities such as Birmingham, Bradford, Cardiff and Leicester, shows not only how saturated the market now is, but how effective the supermarkets are in playing the planning game.