Ikea property manager lambasts New Labour's planning policy

Furniture retailer Ikea has slammed Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's office for placing under threat its UK store opening plan and the creation of 10,000 jobs.

Three years ago, when Ikea announced plans to open 20 UK stores, Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed delight at the 'wonderful news'.

But Ikea has since been frustrated by the 'harsh' interpretation of planning policy by Prescott's office and says its obstructive approach threatens the expansion and associated new jobs.

Writing in Retail Week, Ikea's UK property manager Scott Cordrey lambasted the Deputy Prime Minister's office. He said that key principles are being ignored and that Ikea's willingness to be flexible has been shunned. 'The frustration I feel is the inability of the office of the Deputy Prime Minister to have any dialogue,' he said.

Cordrey's intervention won the backing of other store groups. Graham Seaton, head of property at Matalan, said: 'The guidelines were not designed not to stifle innovation and competition. But the way in which the Government has interpreted means that is precisely what it is doing,' he said.

He accused the Deputy Prime Minister's office of taking a 'restrictive and narrow' stance. 'It is the likes of Ikea and Matalan that have forced prices down,' said Seaton.

A spokesman for Prescott's office declined to comment.

- Comment: page 10.