Rural communities are being “bullied and bludgeoned” into accepting new supermarket developments that force local shops to close, campaigners have warned.
Chains such as Tesco wear down opposition by repeatedly submitting proposals until they gain planning permission to build a new store, according to the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).
The group accused the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats of failing to honour promises to give rural communities a right to appeal against such developments in contentious cases.
The warning comes as MPs debate the new Localism Bill for the first time in the House of Commons today (Mon).
Under measures contained in the Bill, communities will have more influence over local planning decisions, with “neighbourhood forums” given the power to decide where shops, homes and offices should be built.
But the CPRE said the reforms did not go far enough and called for a new “community right of appeal” to be introduced to allow local groups to challenge unwanted developments.
Neil Sinden, director of policy at the CPRE, said: “There are some welcome proposals in the Bill on neighbourhood plans, but overall it falls short of fulfilling ambitious and exciting pre-election commitments by both Coalition partners to introduce a community right of appeal.
“This omission means that powerful supermarkets and other developers will be able to continue to bully and bludgeon local communities until they get the planning permissions they want.”
Many villages and small towns are losing family butchers, high street greengrocers and other local firms as customers switch to new out-of-town supermarkets that offer cheaper goods, the group said.
The CPRE accused developers of using “pressure tactics” against councils where local opposition to a new store was strong, with almost 500 new supermarket developments approved in England in the last two years.
Planning applications by Tesco in Sheringham, Norfolk, attracted local opposition and were rejected twice by councillors and once at an appeal following a public inquiry.
The retail giant finally won in October 2010 when a further application was granted planning permission by North Norfolk District Council, by a margin of one vote.
The CPRE argued that a community right of appeal could be a useful “check and balance” against councillors “losing their resolve” in such cases.A spokesman for Tesco said: "The Tesco scheme in sheringham was supported in a vote by the local community before receiving approval from the local authority