In recent months, Sainsbury and Asda have been bemoaning the fact that it is hard for them to open new stores, while Morrisons has had other things to worry about. So you have to assume they don't own too much. Yet Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy was insisting this week that his chain does not own a landbank - it only buys sites that it is going to develop, he says, and only has enough to meet its growth plans. Such conversations must be terribly frustrating in a week when you have demonstrated, yet again, why you are Britain's top retailer. Nevertheless, it's a legitimate debate given the fact the OFT has put planning at the heart of its proposed referral of the market to the Competition Commission, with fears the big four are using their land banks, strategic bidding on sites and restrictive covenants to limit competition.
But planning issues go way beyond concerns about commerce and competition. Let's not forget they also affect us all as citizens, whether you are talking about retail developments, new housing estates or, in my case, waking up one day to find somebody wants to build a 1,250,000 sq ft warehouse near to where you live.
As you can imagine, that's a bit of a worry. But we don't know too much more, because the developer is keeping details of its monster plan under wraps, including the identity of potential clients (The word on our street is that one of them is Tesco - it won't say).
Anyway, such secrecy is allowed to pervade the entire planning system. And that must be wrong. We may now know the big four have 449 supermarket sites in development, for instance, but we know very little else.
So why don't regulators insist on having a system of full disclosure about all planning developments from the moment a site is first optioned? A free-to-view national database detailing every aspect of a plan would make it easier for companies to react and compete with each other, give planners a clearer picture of what's actually happening in the country and, most importantly, allow citizens to see who is planning to do what to their communities.