A new 'shadowy' body at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is quietly tightening planning restrictions on out-of-town retail development, according to Planning Development Consultancy director Jeremy Hinds.
He told the conference that this means the odds are now even more steeply stacked against new retail parks
The Planning Central Casework Division has been in place since April with a brief to ensure that planning decisions by Government offices in the regions rigorously apply the letter and spirit of planning policy guidance.
This is already having an impact on retailers' chances of winning planning inquiries. Tesco has lost four appeals since April, while Dixons lost an appeal over its plans to redevelop and extend the PC World store on Purley Way in Croydon.
'Next year, there are bound to be more refusals than approvals,' Hinds warned.
Hinds also highlighted the issue of mezzanine floors in out-of-town retail units as a potential area of planning conflict in the coming year. 'A mezzanine is, in reality, an additional retail floor,' he said. 'One of the planning offices is going to twig that pretty soon.'