Yvette Cooper, the planning minister, told MPs this week that the government will ensure that its retail planning shake-up will not undermine the regeneration of city centres.

Cooper told the communities and local government select committee that she did not want the proportion of retail space to drop below the current level of 40%. She added: “If an edge-of-centre development is damaging the town centre it should not be permitted.”

The planning white paper recommends scrapping the “needs test” that stipulates that developments should be allowed only if there is an undersupply of retail space.

The John Lewis Partnership, which is building several city-centre shopping schemes, fears that abolishing this test will make these schemes unviable as it is cheaper and easier to develop out-of-town malls.

If an edge-of-centre retail development is damaging the town centre it should not be permitted.

Yvette Cooper, Planning Minister

A John Lewis spokesperson said: “We’re encouraged by Yvette Cooper’s reassurance over town-centre development.”

Cooper added that the government wanted to dissuade councils from using the planning system to set their own eco-building standards.