Any attempt to relax planning guidelines for out of town superstores would have a disastrous effect on town centre and village stores, MPs have warned. A report by members of the Commons environmental, transport and regional affairs committee claims the competition authorities and some officials within the Treasury and DTI ­ "who do not understand the planning system" ­ are pressing for changes to be made. This pressure is being exerted despite strong public support for the PPG6 guidelines from deputy prime minister John Prescott and his department. Any attempt to water down the PPG6 guidelines would have the opposite effect to that intended, says the committee. "A relaxation of the planning regime in respect of out of town sites would do little to encourage new entrants. It would run the risk of returning to the laissez faire policies of before 1993, which did so much damage." The committee's support for the PPG6 guidelines follows its inquiry into the environmental impact of supermarket competition. It believes the current regime needs only a "little modification" to ensure it works more effectively and gives greater protection to town centres. If the guidelines remain intact, the MPs say, supermarkets will in future be built in urban centres or on edge of town sites in "all but exceptional circumstances". And if that is the case, say the MPs, local authorities must do more to assemble suitable sites, primarily by using their compulsory purchase order powers. The report adds: "If we are to have more supermarkets in town centres they must be built to a much better design than existing stores." PPG6 should be changed to make this clear to planners, say the MPs. They also urge a clampdown on free superstore parking, saying new guidelines on transport and planning are too lax. "The large amounts of free car parking offered by existing out of town supermarkets gives them an enormous competitive advantage over city centre stores," the report says. "Supermarkets at these sites generate more car use, making the situation on already congested roads worse. The situation needs to be addressed urgently." Possible solutions include introducing levies or changing the business rates charged on superstores. {{NEWS }}