sir – What often concerns me about folks' views on new retail development in Worcester, most recently relating to the proposed new Wilko, is their perfectly understandable lack of appreciation of the legal constraints placed on planning authorities by central government.

And, since the Blairites who have been heading Worcester Labour Party this last couple of decades (accurately described by Peter Nielsen in his letter of January 17) rarely condescend to engage with the electorate on this page, I venture to point out that, in simple terms, the council only has the power to designate land for retail use or not, as the case may be.

It has no power (unless it owns the land) to decide which retailer actually opens an outlet on that land, and, all other considerations being satisfied, cannot choose which companies retail on a given retail-designated site. These decisions are "commercial" decisions, and are outwith the powers of planning authorities. If, say, Tesco wishes to open ten stores all within half a mile of one another, there's almost nothing that a council can do to stand in the way, always provided that the land is scheduled for retail use.

Ally Hunaban is quoted as complaining that we have "B&M, Home Bargains, Poundland and now Wilko", and that we have too many discount stores. Under existing planning law, this is a result of commercial realities and choices and not of decisions by the council.

David Barlow