The Grocer – Government ‘not prepared to challenge’ big 4 supermarket chains on planning #NPPF

From the Grocer

With two thirds of all newbuild activity driven by the supermarkets, the government’s response to Portas’ call was to “continue to use sparingly” a rule that has seen just one out-of-town development rejected since 2008.

Ministers have been heavily infuenced by the economic arguments in favour of reducing restrictions rather than piling more on, with LSE research last year claiming restrictive planning policies had reduced productivity in the retail sector by 20%, leading to high prices that particularly hit the poorest households. Supermarkets were smaller than they would otherwise be, there was less competition and planning applications dragged on for years, it found.

“A lot of retailers were up in arms about the plans for secretary of state sign-off , which would have brought another heap of red tape ,” said another lawyer working on planning on behalf of one of the big four. The CEO of one organisation closely involved in talks over Portas and the NPPF adds: “The vast majority of planning consent in the pipeline is from the big four and the government has shown it is simply not prepared to challenge them. It’s a massive cop out,” she [liz] adds.

“If you speak to anyone in the planning business, everyone bar none says the whole Portas process will prove to have been absolutely worthless.”

However, construction and planning experts say that while the week’s developments could have worked out much worse for the big supermarkets, they are far from a green light for unhindered expansion. “The NPPF is clearly seeking to direct new commercial investments towards revitalising the nation’s town centres and we believe the tough sequential approach definitely means there are more barriers to out of town,” says Allan Wilen, economics director at analysts Glenigan

5 thoughts on “The Grocer – Government ‘not prepared to challenge’ big 4 supermarket chains on planning #NPPF

  1. Any suggestions on who commissioned the LSE research, or did they do it because they felt sorry for the poor down-trodden supermarkets?
    An initial view of their findings suggest that they are both obvious and ludicrous. Supermarkets are smaller than their owners would like them to be, yes, but this has a direct impact on the poor. Yes, of course the supermarkets would build something out of character with the area if they can get away with it. As long as the costs to profits ratio fitted their business model, they would give a stuff about its impact on the area, local planning polices are the only controls on that.
    The ludicrous bit comes from the LSE telling us that if all supermarkets were as large as their owners wanted them to be, food for the poor would be cheaper!

  2. The cost to profit ratio is not a necessity. What is often more important is keeping out the opposition – for that the big 4 will pay over the odds and a very great deal over the odds. Thats also why, once they open, they often put in to extend immediately. The idea again is to saturate a town so competitors have no chance, as planners then say the town is over-provided with retail space.

    The customer is the last person considered.

    Also, when paying over the odds dont forget losses can be written off against tax – not that any of them pay much of that with their offshore companies.

    Planners are terrified of at least one of the big 4 because they have sharp lawyers and endless cash.

  3. Sorry I have not read the whole report or studied their methodology before making my comments. I have just two words Aldi & Lidl!

    Strange that these two supermarkets can offer the consumer value on small footprints in town but the big four UK supermarkets can not or will not?

  4. From a political standpoint it would be difficult for the Government of the day to take a tougher stand from two perspectives.

    (1) All the major parties promise to increase house building and significant numbers of houses are delivered at each supermarket development.

    (2) You only have to look at the last few press statements about supermarket expansion and job creation have have included a supportive statement from either Cameron or a senior Cabinet Minister…how tough could they really be considering how desperate they are for the private sector to create new jobs and reduce the growth in unemployment. The current crop will jump on any good news bandwagon while they continue to ignore

    Of course they choose to ignore the fact that these grand statements of new jobs are rarely delivered. Recent research by one of the papers showed that of the 69,000 jobs promised in the last 3 years, only 28,000 had actually become a reality.

  5. Ah, jobs. Many for 10 only week contracts only after opening, many others for zero hours (basically on call sometimes with only 4 hours work in any one week but no option to work for anyone else) and/or people working part-time when they want full-time and needing to claim tax credits, so basically government subsidised.

    Go back a year after opening and check (a) how many jobs there really are and (b) how many shops have closed in the meantime and how many of their staff are now unemployed.

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