The government's National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) could descend into chaos if loopholes and vague language in the draft document are not addressed, retailers and ­industry experts have warned.

The draft NPPF, which was released this week after a wait of almost eight months, aims to promote increased sustainable development and underscores the government's commitment to town-centre development over out-of-town development.

However, experts warned that the wording could actually weaken town centre-first policy and that the supermarkets would now try to push through planning applications before the policy comes into force next spring anyway.

"If it goes forward as it stands then it could assist those who want to plan out-of-town," claimed Ian Anderson, head of retail planning at property firm CBRE. "It says that development should be 'preferred' to be in town centres. It also says town centre locations should be used 'where practical'. So you might find that a number of retailers in particular food retailers will consider it more expedient and practical to go to edge-of-centre or out-of-centre sites."

The draft policy was released as research from CBRE revealed out-of-town development was the "primary focus of grocers' expansion plans" and that "demand for additional modern, large supermarkets in out-of-town locations remains exceptionally strong".

One retail source told The Grocer that although the supermarkets had publicly welcomed the proposals, behind closed doors they were looking to speed up applications. "The CBRE research indicates 50 million sq ft of supermarket development is underway this year and the danger is the horse might have bolted by the time the NPPF comes into force," he said.

The ACS added that the wording of the NPPF was too vague. "The worst-case scenario is that as the message becomes less specific and more open to interpretation," said CEO James Lowman. "Sophisticated developers will look for and find loopholes for development that harms town ­centres."