This is one of the key findings of the research report, The Impact of Large Foodstores on Market Towns and District Centres, published by the department of the environment, transport and the regions.
It shows that out-of-town superstores have had a damaging effect on small towns and district centres.
Richard Caborn, minister for the regions, regeneration and planning, said: 'This research firmly establishes that out-of-town superstores can seriously damage the health of small towns and district centres. Arguments about clawing back trade and creating jobs simply do not hold water.
'Local planning authorities now need to get their plans up to date and identify the town centre sites where new shopping development will be encouraged. Planning has got to change from being reactive and negative to being positive and proactive. The only way to get development where you want it is to plan for it.'
Other main findings of the research show that:
Product diversification and the inclusion of services such as dry cleaners, pharmacies and newsagents, by the out-of-centre stores mean the impact is felt by other town centre service and
convenience stores too.
Even the potential threat of an out-of-centre foodstore can adversely affect town centre retailer confidence.
Food superstores have, on average, a negative net effect on retail employment.
Out-of-centre stores attract a significantly higher proportion of car-borne trade compared with town centre locations.
Retailers often claim that new out of centre stores claw back trade which may have been lost to other, more distant, centres.
The research shows that irrespective of location, highly accessible stores are more likely to achieve higher levels of clawback than smaller, less accessible stores. It also shows that claw-back trade rarely leads to any tangible benefit to the town centre.
Shoppers are most likely to undertake linked trips between a major town centre foodstore and other town centre shops. Shoppers are, respectively, less likely to link journeys between town centres and either edge or out-of-centre stores.
The large retailers are increasingly targeting smaller towns for food superstore development. The research shows they are generally less able to adjust to this than larger town centres. Where
foodstore proposals are disproportionately large compared with the size of the centre, the new store can supplant the role of the centre.
This research report provides strong justification for the government's policy of concentrating new superstore developments in existing centres and resisting out-of-centre developments. It proposes a number of policy improvements which will be considered when PPG6 is next revised. These include a recommendation that all foodstore proposals over 1,000 sq. metre net sales on the edge of, or outside, market towns and district centres should be accompanied by a Combined, Retail, Economic and Traffic Evaluation (CREATE) and that the need for a new foodstore in market towns and district centres should be more clearly defined in PPG 6. The report also questions whether the current distance guideline of 200-300 m for edge of centre location in PPG 6 may be too wide for some small market towns.
The research study, led by CB Hillier Parker with co-consultants, Savell Bird Axon dealing with transport issues, took two years to complete and includes a comprehensive survey of all local planning authorities and leading foodstore operations in the UK. It provides a detailed review of all research undertaken to date and draws on case studies in nine market towns and district centres.
The research report The Impact of Large Foodstores on Market Towns and District Centres is published by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions by The Stationery Office, price£20 (ISBN 0-11-753478-1).