Restricting the number of large shops in small towns will help protect retailers in town centres, according to a government proposal.
By changing planning laws, the government hopes it will be possible to prevent retailers covering more than 2,000 square metres to be built in towns with fewer than 40,000 inhabitants. Additionally, approval for shops larger than 2,000 square metres located outside the centre of larger towns will no longer be given.
The environment minister, Ida Auken (Socialistisk Folkeparti), said the proposal is designed to limit towns from competing with each other for customers.
“We want to make sure that the retail sector develops in a balanced manner and ensure that there are stores in small towns and villages,” Auken told Berlingske newspaper.
The former Venstre-Konservative government was responsible for liberalising planning laws and reducing the restrictions on where shops can be built. Konservative, though, say they support the government’s proposal in order to protect town-centre trade.
“It’s Konservative policy to look after our town centres,” spokesperson Benedikte Kjær told Berlingske. “We know that voters value this.”
But Venstre spokesperson Birgitte Josefsen disagreed. She argued that stores in town centres and large out-of-town superstores do not compete for the same customers.
“If customers cannot find what they are looking for in their locality, they will drive far to find what they are looking for,” Josefson told Berlingske. “This will affect commerce in small towns.”
But John Wagner, managing director of Den Samvirkende Købmænd, the national association of grocers, argued that restricting where large stores could be built would help smaller stores.
“Large discount shops suck the trade out of our town centres,” he told Berlingske. “In order to preserve the trade in local and grocery shops, we need new aggressive planning laws.”
The proposal is expected to be passed by parliament next February.