The Government's draft Planning Policy Statement 6 was criticised by some of the UK's top retail experts at the Retail Week Property Forum.
Donaldsons head of retail development Adrian Powell said the planning for town centres was more likely to restrict than promote growth.
With centre development at a low and a massive increase in demand among comparison shoppers, millions of square foot of retail floorspace is needed in London alone.
'The equivalent of eight new shopping centres is needed between now and 2016,' said Powell.
Questions have also been raised about planning departments' abilities to deal with applications for the development required under the policy statement. One of the key considerations in PPS6 is the proof of need for the development.
In the case of competing retail schemes, this could lead to a constant reassessment of retail requirements within local authorities, which are already under pressure to provide land for new homes. Yet whereas housing applications rarely go to appeal, big new shopping developments invariably do, said Powell.