Friends of the Earth has urged the Competition Commission to strengthen policies designed to halt the decline in local shops and town centres.

The environmental campaigning group has submitted further evidence on planning policies to the Competition Commission's inquiry into the grocery market in a bid to show that policies that put town centres first have successfully achieved new investment for local communities.

Sandra Bell, supermarket campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: "We submitted the evidence of our own accord because we are concerned that there is a new agenda to free up land for retailers. We wanted to remind the Competition Commission of the value of town centre policies."

Friends of the Earth is carrying out a survey of farmers and hopes to submit evidence from it to the Competition Commission next month, she added.

Meanwhile, the Commission is preparing to take its hearings to Northern Ireland next month. A spokeswoman for the Commission said it would be in Holywood, County Down, on 16 and 17 November.

She said it had already received submissions from the Ulster Farmers' Union, the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association and the Northern Ireland Meat Exporters' Association.

Reader survey: planning permission, page 43?