A radical plan to save independent high street retailers has been backed by Tory shadow Chancellor George Osborne.
Under proposals which could be pioneered in Birmingham, developers would be forced to give up to 20 per cent of new shopping centres to privately run shops.
Independent retailers would get tax concessions to avoid the domination of centres like the Bullring by big retailers who can price out competition.
The idea - tabled by a Birmingham shopkeeper forced out of business by a superstore - would work similar to the way planning laws require social housing to be part of the mix of new residential developments.
Birmingham Council leader Mike Whitby (Con Harborne) - whose ward has suffered from the closure of independent retailers - said the idea would be examined.
"We need to look carefully at these proposals to ensure they make good business sense, but in many respects they are an attractive option," he said. "Birmingham thrives because of the vibrancy of its urban villages. We all want to be part of an economically successful city, but at the same time ensure our neighbourhoods and local centres have a good selection of shops and amenities.
"I will be asking our planning department to look at what they can do to encourage independent retailers to become part of major developments."
The High Street rescue plan was welcomed by Mr Osborne in a visit to the city yesterday.
He said: "It is a very interesting idea. I am certain we need to do more to support independent retailers.
"I have been out campaigning for four weeks and it has come up everywhere I have been from the west coast of Scotland to the south coast of England."
Mr Osborne said the concept of quotas for independent retailers was "a very powerful point" and had made a "powerful impression" on him.
"Whether we do that through requiring a percentage are independents or whether we do it through taxation is something we need to consider," he added.
Concern has been expressed over "clone High Streets", replicating the same big chain retailers nationwide.
Critics claim the Government has placed heavier burdens on small businesses and is failing to keep check of major stores like Tesco.
Matt Hardman, of the Forum of Private Business, said: "The red tape burden and the administrative burden increased over the last ten years.
"The tax regime and the employment law small operators have to deal with has got worse and their margins have got smaller because they feel it more acutely than bigger competitors.
"We are looking at clone High Streets across the UK. We need to recognise small businesses are the life-blood of the economy."
Nationally, 13,000 independent news agents closed between 1995 and 2004.
A further 8,600 privately-owned grocery stores went out of business from 2000 to 2005 according to statistics from the FPB.
Research also shows 50 specialist shops such as bakers, butchers and fishmongers closed every week between when Labour came to power and 2002.
The plan for safeguarding the future of small shops was put forward by Bharat Mehta.
He claims his former card shop Every Mood Cards in Edgbaston Shopping Centre was a casualty of competition from a supermarket giant.
He said: "Landlords are pushing the rates higher and higher.
"The multi-nationals can afford it but the independents can't.
"There is already a system in place where if a developer wants to build houses they have to provide social housing as part of their planning application. If that same principle is applied to the shopping sector then social housing can be replaced by independent shops.
"We should say 20 per cent of a shopping centre will be independent which is supported by the city council through a discount of between 20 and 30 per cent in their rates."
Councillor Diedre Alden (Con Harborne), parliamentary candidate for Edgbaston, said: "It is very important to make sure there are independent shops on High Streets, otherwise they will look the same across the country.
"This plan is worth looking at."