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PR 02 - Undermining planning will not promote competition warn RTPI

23 January 2007

Less planning equals less competition, not more as has been suggested by some retailers on the back of the Competition Commission's emerging findings released today. The way forward is to give planners clear policy on what we, as a society, want our environments to look like. The Royal Town Planning Institute believes that strong planning can protect our town centres; strong planning can support farmers markets and local produce; and only strong planning can tackle those who deliberately abuse the system.

Kelvin MacDonald, Director of Policy and Research at the RTPI said: \"It is plainly wrong to believe that a market free-for all on land, caused by removing the 'needs test', will do anything other than reinforce current market failings. A strong planning system provides the stage upon which we, as a community, can determine our environments. Used well the current planning system puts town centres first, it reduces the need to drive to the shops for a pint of milk, and it can promote local produce and producers.

\"The Competition Commissions' number one recommendation should be for planning authorities to be properly funded and resourced to really crack down hard on those abusing the planning system. The RTPI deplores any operator who gains advantage in such a way. Buying up land without developing it, in order to prevent other suppliers creating a competitive market, is an abuse of the planning system. So is the deliberate use of retrospective planning permission when stores are deliberately built too large.\"

Historically Tesco were the first to take advantage of Planning Policy Guidance 6, promoting town centres against out-of-town developments, and the movement of people back into Britain's cities. It is this success, amongst others, which has propelled them to their current market share. It is not for the planning system to control or regulate what people want and who supplies it. The planning system allocates land based on need. It is not the planning system's job to say who occupies the land.

However by planning communities where it is easy to walk to the shops and where there is space to accommodate alternative suppliers such as farmers markets, the planning system can influence the next trends in consumer behaviour. The production of food has a spatial element, if it is produced locally rather than driven in from central warehouses, we can reduce carbon output. These are just some of the reasons why we need to support the planning system and not undermine it.


For further information please contact:

Andrew Kliman, RTPI Communications Manager, 0207 929 9479

Kelvin MacDonald, RTPI Director of Policy and Practice, 0207 929 9470


Notes to Editors

1. The Competition Commission emerging findings can be found at

2. Section 153, Page 55 of the Groceries market investigation reads:

The lack of a quantitative need test in Scotland, compared with England, Northern Ireland and Wales, does not appear to have resulted in a greater proportion of newly-built supermarkets being in larger size categories. This appears to suggest that the need test, by itself, does not represent a constraint on the construction of larger supermarkets.           

3. PPS 6: Planning for Town Centres can be found at:

4.  The RoyalTown Planning Institute (RTPI)

The RTPI is a dynamic organisation leading the way in the creation of places that work now and in the future. We understand that just as people develop places, so places develop people.  We are committed to the enhancement of our natural and human environment, using spatial planning to manage competing pressures on our built environments and the very real effects on our space.  Through our members, we constantly seek to create areas and places in which people want to live and work.

As well as promoting spatial planning, RTPI develops and shapes policy affecting the built environment, works to raise professional standards and supports members through continuous education, training and development.

For further general information, visit the RTPI website at:

41 Botolph Lane, London, EC3R 8DL, charity no. 262865