Big store expansions under investigation
A group of MPs have launched a probe into the future of local shopping. The group is understood to be concerned about reports that the UK's high streets are being taken over by a few powerful retailers, rendering them identical to each other.

The investigation follows a warning from the New Economics Foundation that almost half of the nation's high streets have been cloned by a handful of retailers, squeezing out independent retailers that give each high street its individual character.

More than 50 MPs are understood to support the probe by the All Party Small Shops Group led by Labour MP Jim Dowd. The committee will present its findings to DTI Secretary of State Alan Johnson in September.

In response to the news, British Retail Consortium director general Kevin Hawkins said: 'It is important to remember when looking at the future of retail, that stopping supermarkets or chain stores coming onto our high streets or curbing out of town development is not a magic wand solution and will never in itself secure the existence of local shops and the character of the town centre. Planning restrictions and rising property costs (such as business rates and upward only rent reviews) play a big role in the failure of smaller retailers to get a foothold and survive on the high street.'