The debate over reform to France's retail planning laws continued into the early hours today (13 June) with focus on possible changes to the planning bands criticised for restraining provincial retail development.

The French National Assembly is grappling with the political fallout from German discounter Aldi's complaint to the EU in 2005 that French commercial planning laws were anti-competitive.

For years, thresholds, set at 300 square metres and then around 1,000 sq m, have choked off larger retail outlets, requiring complicated application procedures.

"We've been controlling the format rather than the trading practices," conceded UMP deputy Jean-Paul Charié, a veteran campaigner for transparent business practices and appointed rapporteur for the Law to Modernise the Economy (LME).

To the consternation of local mayors, hard discounters have carved themselves a market share of around 14% nationally, while most multiples have high-street fascias in a 299 sq m format known as superettes.

The traditional generators of provincial footfall are independent bakers, charcuteries and pharmacies, which most legislators want to protect.