The Association of Convenience Stores has warned a group of MPs that there is “still much to achieve” in supporting town centres.

ACS chief executive James Lowman, speaking to the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee yesterday, said that Government should do more to encourage in-town investment and “resist harmful out of town or edge of town developments”.

Lowman was responding to the publication of the Government’s latest policy statement on planning - “Planning for Prosperous Economies” - in which it has reiterated the need for local planning authorities to support town centres.

Lowman said that while the Government’s message was having a positive effect, some 60 per cent of new builds are still out of town, and that weaknesses in the way planning is organised and funded risk harming town centres and the retailers that trade there.

He said: “The reality of the planning system is that planning officers do not have the necessary resource and expertise to match the major developers and therefore changing the policy presents a risk of loopholes that out of town developers could exploit.”

The committee is looking into ways the Government’s policy towards town planning could be reformed. It will also hear expert testimony from retailers including Sainsbury’s and Tesco as well as the BCSC, and is expected to report its findings this summer.