A new study confirms that local shops flourish once superstore plans are turned down.

The Real Choice report, by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the Plunkett Foundation, found the number of local and regional food suppliers in and around Saxmundham, East Suffolk, had increased from 300 to 370 with a wider range of local products sold since councillors rejected a supermarket in 1997.

The overall number of shops had stayed constant at 81 – bucking the national trend of decline – and the local market towns had retained their bakers, butchers, fish shops and fresh vegetable outlets. Family baker Jacksons has four stores in and around Saxmundham. Senior partner John Jackson said the company would probably not be around if a supermarket had opened in the town. “There would be no high street. Instead, we’re surviving and optimistic about the future. Other towns haven’t been so lucky.”

The CPRE is calling for new strategies to recognise the public benefits of local food networks, stronger planning policies for local authorities, tough action from the Competition Commis-sion to stem the growth of supermarkets, and for supermarkets to stock more local foods.

Tom Oliver, CPRE’s head of rural policy, said: “There is a real choice facing local, regional and national government: to support a future for local food suppliers, independent stores and their communities. They can thrive alongside national and global businesses. Or we can do nothing and watch them die.”

David Smith, chief executive of the National Association of Master Bakers, said he was glad someone had managed to prove what the group had been saying for years. “There’s a feeling that there’s complete unfettered competition between the supermarkets. Let’s hope the government listens to the evidence.”