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Planning guidance and large-store development in the United Kingdom: the search for ‘flexibility’

  • Political Science


An important feature of town-planning practice in Western Europe has been the attempt to control commercial-property development in order to conform with planning principles. The growth history of large stores such as hypermarkets, superstores, and retail warehouses has thus been characterised by disputes between developers and planners. In this paper we examine the responses of large-store developers to UK government planning guidance that retail developments should be of a nature and scale suited to the physical environment of town centres. This goes against some retailers’ preferences for large formats which are generally unsuited to town centres. We explain these two opposed views, devoting particular attention to the retail developers’ case. We then use findings from two interview surveys with selected retailers to explore how far retail developers are prepared to go in compromising their preferred models of store development in line with government policy. Finally we discuss potential effects of recent changes in government policy.

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