Protecting town centre shopping is the main objective of a revised planning policy document being published.
Department store John Lewis hopes to locate at Sprucefield
The government document, which focuses on large out-of-town and edge-of-town retail outlets, is open for public consultation until November.
One exception to the clampdown on out-of-town centres is that applications to the Sprucefield complex near Lisburn would be judged on merit.
This is seen as an indication that a John Lewis store there could go ahead.
The government said it hoped the plans would "influence the future pattern of retailing by redressing the balance between out-of-town and town centre shopping".
The document is called the Draft Planning Policy Statement 5 (PPS5), for Retailing, Town Centres and Commercial Leisure Developments.
Regional Development Minister David Cairns said the consultation period had been extended by four months.
"This about things which affect our daily lives - it's about shopping, the future of our town centres, the future of our city centres, regeneration and allowing people greater access to greater competition," he said.
He said the consultation document was about protecting the town centre as the pre-eminent place to shop, and recognising that many of Northern Ireland's high streets were struggling.
"It will not mean no more out-of-town developments, but what it will mean is that if anyone is proposing to open a store out of town, they will have to go through a series of hoops first.
"They will have to demonstrate that they could not have put the same development, the same shops, in towns or city centres and that they couldn't have built on developments that are already there, and that the development they are putting in place won't have a very severe detrimental effect on town centres and city centres."