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Multiples defend superstores as MPs seek planning curbs.

THE multiples were this week defending the need for out-of-town superstores following publication of the Environment Select Committee's report on Shopping Centres and their Future.

MPs believe that retail development policies have allowed the building of too many superstores in locations which are inappropriate on environmental, heritage and social grounds. They say it is now time to reverse this trend, and require developers to "demonstrate that their proposals for new stores will not harm the vitality and viability of town centres."

The Committee also recommends that "no proposals for superstores in or around market towns should be considered, unless they are accompanied by a comprehensive study of the possible retail effects over the whole of each proposal's catchment area".

A Safeway spokesman told The Grocer: "We see no fundamental contradiction between the development of modern food stores and the viability and vitality of town centres.

"About 80% of new branches are built in town centres or edge of centres, meeting PPG6 and PPG13 guidelines published earlier this year and this report's main recommendations.

"Supermarket customers will not return to daily high street shopping, even with fully integrated planning and transport policies," she added.

The Committee recognises there are different types of shopping trips: main food shopping, bulky non-food purchases and town centre or comparison shopping for goods such as clothing, footwear and accessories,

"It also acknowledges that by choice food shopping has become, for most households, a once-a-week activity. It is, therefore important to distinguish between the market served by food outlets and other retail units," according to the Tesco spokesman. "There is much evidence to suggest that out of town supermarkets have little, if any, impact on town centres."

Nevertheless, according to a report by food retailing analyst Paul Smiddy at Japanese investment bank Nomura, the percentage of successful planning appeals has fallen from 60% before PPG6 to about 30% in the past three months.

JS chairman David Sainsbury echoed this on Wednesday: "Since January, JS has only received consent on one appeal case out of nine. Others were similarly affected. Tesco only obtained one out of 10 and Safeway one out of six,"

Of the Tesco superstores built in the past 10 years, between 30% and 40% have been within existing town and district centres. Sainsbury claims more than 50% of their stores are either in the centre or on the edge of the town centre -- in locations which are favoured by the report and the Government guidance. And both chains are already concentrating on smaller city centre stores, Metro and Central.

David Simons, Somerfield chief executive, accused MPs of "shutting the garage doors after the Volvo has bolted". Simons added that consumers "preferred shopping on high streets to out-of-town superstores".

Cargo Club md Mark Riches welcomed the recognition in the report that warehouse clubs are a "different shopping concept.

"We do not threaten town centres and, as we sell a limited number of lines across a wide range of goods, we are not category killers.

"More importantly the future of the comer shop is supported by the development of warehouse clubs rather than threatened. Small shopkeepers are among our core customers," Riches concluded.
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Date:Nov 5, 1994
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