The Government is facing mounting pressure from independent retailers and property groups to scrap plans to change town planning rules.
At present, town planning guidelines include a needs test that requires planners to turn down out of town developments if they believe local shoppers are already being adequately served by existing retailers.
However according to The Mail on Sunday, many believe that changes aimed at giving individual towns more freedom to decide upon their own retail landscapes could water down the requirement for the needs test and pave the way for swathes of out of town developments.
British Shops and Stores Association boss John Dean said: “There is a huge danger that if we lose the focus of the needs test, town centres will suffer. This revision to the guidelines was first floated two years ago when the environment was very different. The question to ask is whether it still applies today.”
A parliamentary select committee warned the Government last month not to scrap the needs test as part of the revisions.
Research last week revealed that the number of vacant shops on the high street has more than doubled over the past year.