Delegates at the ACS Summit will be warned that convenience retailing is “in the grip of its most important political battle for years”.
Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman (pictured) will argue that more robust planning laws are needed to promote town centres ahead of out-of-town developments.
And he will use the Summit to reassert the need for delegates to influence the forthcoming Localism Bill, to ensure that all future supermarket development proposals are made to undergo independent scrutiny.
Influencing the National Planning Framework overseen by local government secretary Eric Pickles will also be high on the agenda, as the trade body seeks to convince Government that “unfettered supermarket development” is not the key to economic recovery.
In a draft of the speech seen by The Grocer ahead of the 1 March conference at Birmingham NEC, Lowman adds: “Without clauses in the Localism Bill to explicitly support sustainable development and require applications to be independently assessed, there will be gaping loopholes for the supermarkets to exploit.
“The National Planning Framework can’t be a woolly wish-list. It has to make clear that healthy high streets and neighbourhood centres are at the heart of good development.
“The big supermarkets are licking their lips at the prospect of weaker guidance, justified as part of the big society, which will allow them to out-gun councils to get planning applications through.
“If we don’t get this right now we will go back to the days of unchecked out-of-town development from which high streets may never recover.”
Places for the day-long summit, which takes place alongside the third and final day of this year’s National Convenience Show – formerly the Convenience Retailing Show – can be booked via the show’s website, nationalconvenienceshow.co.uk.
ACS calls on Chancellor to deliver retail-friendly Budget (10 February 2011)
ACS Summit preview: Something for all (Convenience Store; 6 February 2011)