11 Town Centre Regeneration and Retail

The Changing Role of Town Centres

11.1 People are spending an increasing amount of time on the internet, on computers, or on smartphones, and goods can be purchased and delivered on the same day they are ordered, often at a cheaper price than from a typical high street shop.

11.2 Furthermore, online retailing has also expanded rapidly into services such as banking, estate agency, travel agency, and takeaway food delivery, with less retail floor space being required in town centres.

11.3 Town centres must therefore diversify to attract consumers, with an improved ‘customer experience’ through more food and leisure opportunities where people wish to spend their time and money.

11.4 There is no longer a place for restrictive policies that seek to prohibit any non-A1 retail use from coming forward, other than in the core primary retail areas.

The Need for Regeneration

11.5 As historic uses on large sites become redundant, there is a need to find new development opportunities to replace them with a wider range of uses including residential. More people living in town centres will help support, for example, retail, leisure, and food and drink activities, and provide for an increased level of activity beyond traditional trading hours. Empty shops and lack of investment leads to a deteriorating townscape, whilst there is also a need to protect and enhance heritage assets, which help to provide a quality town centre environment.

The National Planning Policy Context

11.6 The national context for Local Plan policies on town centres and retail is set out in the National Planning Policy Framework 2018. This states that planning policies and decisions should support the role that town centres play at the heart of local communities by taking a positive approach to their growth, management and adaptation. Planning policies should include, for example:

  • a network and hierarchy of town centres, and promote their long-term vitality and viability – by allowing them to grow and diversify in a way that can respond to rapid changes in the retail and leisure industries, allowing a suitable mix of uses (including housing) that reflects their distinctive characters;
  • the definition of the extent of town centres and primary shopping areas, and make clear the range of uses permitted in such locations, as part of a positive strategy for the future of each centre;
  • retain and enhance existing markets and, where appropriate, re-introduce or create new ones; and
  • recognise that residential development often plays an important role in ensuring the vitality of centres and encourage residential development on appropriate sites [1] .

11.7 Further guidance is contained in the Planning Practice Guidance on ‘Ensuring the Vitality of Town Centres’ (2014). This states that a positive vision or strategy for town centres, articulated through the Local Plan, is key to ensuring successful town centres which enable sustainable economic growth and provide a wide range of social and environmental benefits. The Local Plan should express the vision for the future of each town centre which should consider what the most appropriate mix of uses would be to enhance overall vitality and viability.

1. NPPF 2019 Para 85 [back]

Permitted Development

11.8 Under national legislation [2] , the change of use of premises within Use Class A1 (shops) to Class A2 (Professional and Financial Services); Class A3 (Restaurants and Cafés (subject to Prior Approval); or two flats (all subject to floor area constraints), can take place without the need to submit an application seeking planning permission. At the time of writing, the Government is also consulting on further changes in an apparent effort to introduce additional flexibility. A number of retail premises in the District’s town centres have been lost due to these ‘Permitted Development Rights’[3] .

11.9 The measures may lead to a reduction in vacant shop premises, particularly in peripheral shop frontages. However, conversely, it could have an impact on the ability of operators to find space in areas where demand is higher. The food and beverage, leisure, and non-retail service sectors have been successful in occupying space no longer attractive to retail tenants. There have been cyclical trends in vacancy rates reflecting the macro economic trends, but in most cases, town centres recovered during periods of stronger growth [4] .

2. Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015. [back]
3. District Council Monitoring Database. [back]
4. South Somerset Retail and Main Town Centres Uses Study; Lichfields; July 2017 [back]

The South Somerset District Council Priority Projects 2018-19

11.10 The Council’s Priority Projects include three town centre regeneration priorities:

  • To continue the ‘refresh’ of Yeovil Town Centre;
  • To finalise plans and progress implementation of the Chard Regeneration Project;
  • To implement the town centre action plan for Wincanton.

11.11 The purpose of the Yeovil Refresh is to ensure that new commercial and public investment is attracted to a number of the town’s key regeneration sites, adding value to the local economy and helping to fulfil Yeovil’s role as the principal economic, service and retail centre for South Somerset.

11.12 The Chard Regeneration Project aims to reinvigorate and bolster the role of Chard as a market town and economic centre. This will be done by supporting the growth of businesses within the town and strengthening Chard’s links with its hinterland and the wider economy. There is a particular focus on the redevelopment of key sites and buildings in Chard Town Centre, together with addressing market failure to stimulate wider commercially led development in the town.

11.13 The Wincanton Action Plan will identify to the Council and stakeholders, a range of actions which will help re-position the role of Wincanton town centre as a vibrant environment, in which, a host of small independent businesses will flourish.

The 'Yeovil ‘Town Centre Refresh’

11.14 The Town Centre Development Strategy for Yeovil has been undertaken by consultants on behalf of South Somerset District Council. The work has been carried out in collaboration with key stakeholders to develop a deliverable strategy that will bring forward substantial positive change to Yeovil Town Centre. This work does not seek to replicate the earlier ‘Yeovil Vision’ and other studies, but rather it builds on this work to develop a strategy that is appropriate for today. To aid the process, the Town Centre has been considered under three key themes; these are, ‘Public Realm’; ‘Development; and ‘Transport’. The Town Centre has been analysed under these themes in terms of its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and constraints. From this, a refreshed ‘Vision’ has been developed to articulate the primary objectives of the study. The analysis and Vision then informed the identification of a series of potential interventions to bring about significant positive change to the Town Centre and lasting benefits to residents, visitors, and workers.Yeovil Refresh

11.15 The Refresh has a Vision to:

  • Increase the quantity and density of residential development in the Town Centre;
  • Support the Hospital and College’s objectives for innovation;
  • Celebrate the Town’s cultural offer;
  • Strengthen and consolidate the Town’s retail centre;
  • Improve the number and quality of public and green spaces;
  • Ensure Yeovil is easy to get to and safe, convenient and attractive to move through;
  • Engender an ethos of healthy living;
  • Increase the breadth of the offer of ‘Things to Do’ to encourage people to spend more time in the centre;
  • Increase the mix of uses to create vitality throughout the day and evening; and
  • Increase the number and diversity of employment opportunities.

11.16 Specific projects include the promotion of the redevelopment of several sites within the town centre to encourage regeneration. A Car Parking Action Plan, an Access Strategy, and a Local Walking and Cycling Implementation Plan are also being produced. The development sites are listed below and are the subject of specific allocations in the Local Plan Review. Where public car parks are included, development proposals should take account of other proposals for loss / provision of public car parking to ensure that income levels are appropriately maintained and that there is sufficient supply to cater for demand. This analysis should take account of future development proposals.

  • The site of the former Box Factory and South Street car park;
  • The Bus Station and Glovers Walk;
  • The former Cattle Market; and
  • Petters Way

 

POLICY TC1 – YEOVIL TOWN CENTRE REGENERATION SITES

The following sites in Yeovil Town Centre are allocated for redevelopment to provide the specified types of developments:

  1. Former Box Factory Site and South Street Car Park; providing for a residential-led scheme of about 85 dwellings.
  2. The Bus Station and Glovers Walk; providing a mixed-use development extending to about 20,000m2 of floorspace over three-four stories, including a residential element of about 100 dwellings.
  3. The former Cattle Market; providing for a range of mixed-use of development with about 5,000m2 of floorspace, including a residential element of about 120 dwellings.
  4. Petters Way; providing for a commercial development of about 3,000m2 and with a residential element of about 20 dwellings

Development in Yeovil Town Centre

11.17 Concerns over the lack of development viability have frequently been cited as presenting challenges in bringing forward the many long-standing regeneration projects and other development opportunities in Yeovil town centre. Given the importance of rejuvenating the town centre, the framework provided by the Yeovil Vision, and the renewed impetus provided by the ‘Yeovil Refresh’, it is time to adopt a different policy approach in the town centre than elsewhere in the District, which goes some way to meeting the particular issues of viability in the centre.

11.18 The priorities in determining planning applications for new development in the designated town centre are:

  1. Contributions to a significantly improved public realm.
  2. The need to stimulate more residential development in the centre.
  3. A flexible approach to proposed uses given the recognised contraction of the retail sector and the increasingly changing role of centres.
  4. Very high standards of urban design and use of materials.
  5. Improvements to public transport provision.

11.19 A more relaxed approach to some requirements will also be adopted, including:

I. Reduced on-site parking standards.

ii. Increased densities of development.

iii. Reduced S106 contributions for other general items off site.

 

POLICY TC2 – DEVELOPMENT IN THE DESIGNATED YEOVIL TOWN CENTRE

I. The priorities in determining planning applications for new development in the designated town centre are:

a. A flexible approach to proposed town centre uses.

b. More residential development in the centre.

c. Very high standards of urban design and use of materials.

d. Contributions to a significantly improved public realm.

e. Improvements to public transport provision.

ii. A more relaxed approach to some requirements will also be adopted, including:

  • Increased densities of development of at least 100 dwellings per hectare.
  • Reduced on-site parking standards and the potential for parking-free development.
  • Reduced S106 contributions for other general items off site.

Chard Regeneration

11.20 The strategic approach to development in Chard is underpinned by the Chard Regeneration Plan, 2009; this forms part of the master planning process[5] to prepare long term plans for the town that address the issues set out in the 'Chard Regeneration Framework'[6] . More recently, the ‘Chard Refresh’ is an ambitious plan to help realise the vision and aims previously agreed. By regenerating key sites in the centre of Chard the objectives supporting the vision and aims will be:

  • To provide a compelling reason for residents and visitors to visit and use Chard town centre.
  • To bring the key sites and buildings in Chard Town Centre back into economic and community use. This will stimulate physical regeneration and improve the vitality of the town centre.
  • To increase the footfall within the town and support existing businesses.
  • To improve the leisure and health offer in Chard for both local people and new visitors.
  • To reinvigorate and bolster the role of Chard as a Market Town and economic centre. This would be done by supporting the growth of businesses within the town and strengthening Chard’s links with its hinterland and the wider economy.
  • To address market failure and stimulate wider commercially led development in the town including the allocated housing developments within the ‘Chard Eastern Development Area’ (CEDA – see Policy CH1).Chard refresh

11.21 The vision for the town centre is to create a mixed use development on the site of the former Boden Mill with a new swimming pool and fitness provision at its heart. This would introduce a leisure, culture and health focus that is complemented by a blend of housing and commercial development to provide an exciting redevelopment with increased footfall, and quality, environmental improvements. A masterplan is to be prepared along with a Public Realm Design Guide. Public spaces at Boden Mill and Holyrood Lace Mill are to be designed around the new leisure facility and existing public spaces.

11.22 The ‘Cresta’ swimming pool closed in the autumn of 2018 and will be replaced by the pool in the new leisure centre.

 

POLICY TC3 – CHARD TOWN CENTRE REGENERATION SITE

The Boden Mill site in Chard Town Centre is allocated for redevelopment to provide:

        • A mixed use development, including a new leisure centre and swimming pool, alongside a blend of housing and commercial developments;
        • The provision of 29% affordable housing;
        • A high quality public open space.
5. Prepared by LDA Design, consultants employed by South Somerset District Council [back]
6. An autonomous planning exercise in the form of the Chard Regeneration Framework. The Chard Regeneration Framework is the result of many detailed discussions over a number of years about the challenges that face Chard and the regeneration opportunities that could be available. In January 2007 the District Council agreed the need to lead the development of a Chard Vision project that would allow the challenges to be met and the regeneration opportunities to be taken. Extensive negotiations with the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA), Somerset County Council and Chard Town Council were concluded in October 2008. These established the Chard Regeneration Scheme. [back]

Wincanton Town Centre Strategy

11.23 A public consultation on the draft version of the Wincanton Town Centre Strategy commenced in January 2019 after the draft strategy was agreed at Area East Committee in December 2018. South Somerset District Council's Wincanton Town Centre Strategy aims to boost footfall and help create a more vibrant town centre through working with partners, in which, Wincanton's businesses can flourish.

11.24 The draft strategy also comes with an action plan for achieving a regenerated Wincanton town centre. The draft Strategy aims to provide clear direction for:

  • Encouraging quality investment from private and public sector
  • Improving commercial confidence
  • Informing future decision making
  • Co-ordinating town centre activities/management to achieve complementary improvements
  • Promoting and marketing the town centre
  • Encouraging and developing partnership to collaborate on implementing the strategy

11.25 The document includes early thoughts about potential town centre development opportunities comprising possible residential and mixed use/workspace. There is recognition of a continuing need to ensure balance, preserving flexibility for alternative footfall generators over time. The hope is that these thoughts could also highlight opportunities for better connectivity to the High Street with ideas for new pedestrian linkages which could be brought forward through future developments.

11.26 Another strand of the work has been to consider public realm improvements such as widening footways, introducing different surface dressings, better delineation of on- street parking, and planting schemes. Proposals are tailored to individual locations at:

    • Market Place
    • High Street (central area no’s 7-15 and the eastern gateway)
    • Carrington Way

Retail Hierarchy

11.27 The Lichfields report “Retail and Main Town Centre Uses Study” 2017 confirms the retail hierarchy as set out in the adopted Local Plan. Yeovil is the largest centre in South Somerset, followed by the town centres of Chard, Crewkerne, Ilminster and Wincanton, then Ansford/Castle Cary, Langport/Huish Episcopi, and Somerton, followed by Bruton, Ilchester, Martock, Milborne Port and South Petherton. This is effectively, a four-tier hierarchy.

11.28 Yeovil is the principal centre and will be the main focus for new retail and leisure investment that requires a high level of accessibility. Major new regional-scale shopping facilities will not be supported outside Yeovil in order to maintain the retail hierarchy, build on existing infrastructure, and focus shops where people have the greatest access to them.

11.29 Chard, Crewkerne, Ilminster and Wincanton function as important service centres providing a range of facilities and services for an extensive rural catchment area. These settlements (identified as Primary Market Towns in the local plan Settlement Hierarchy) perform the role of Market Towns in retail terms.

11.30 Ansford/ Castle Cary, Langport/Huish Episcopi, and Somerton contain groups of shops including a supermarket and a range of non-retail services such as banks and local public facilities (e.g. libraries) and these settlements (identified as Local Market Towns in the local plan Settlement Hierarchy) perform the role of District Centres in retail terms.

11.31 Bruton, Ilchester, Martock, Milborne Port, and South Petherton (identified as Rural Centres in the local plan Settlement Hierarchy) function as Local Centres in retail terms, having a range of small shops, local in nature, such as a small supermarket, newsagents, a sub-post office, or pharmacy, all serving a small catchment.

11.32 The retail hierarchy (Policy TC4) will determine how new net growth will be distributed over the plan period. Yeovil will be the main focus for new retail and leisure investment, and the Market Towns, District Centres, and Local Centres will accommodate development which will help maintain their retail and service role and support their position in the retail hierarchy.

11.33 The approach seeks to secure Yeovil's market share, thereby securing its prominence in the retail hierarchy, whilst allowing sufficient retail provision in the Market Towns, District Centres and Local Centres. Planning permission will not be granted for proposals which are out of scale with the retail hierarchy. 

 

POLICY TC4 – RETAIL HIERARCHY

I. Yeovil is the Principal Town Centre in South Somerset. Chard, Crewkerne, Ilminster and Wincanton are Market Towns in retail terms. Ansford/Castle Cary, Langport/Huish Episcopi, and Somerton are District Centres in retail terms, and Bruton, Ilchester, Martock, Milborne Port, and South Petherton are Local Centres in retail terms.

ii. The development of main town centre uses in Yeovil, the Market Towns, the District Centres and Local Centres should be of a scale that is commensurate with the settlement role and function, and does not unbalance the town centre hierarchy.

Location of Main Town Centre Uses (the Sequential Approach)

11.34 National guidance states that local planning authorities should apply a sequential test to planning applications for main town centre uses which are neither in an existing centre nor in accordance with an up-to-date plan[7] . Main town centre uses should be located in town centres, then in edge of centre locations, and only if suitable sites are not available (or expected to become available within a reasonable period) should out of centre sites be considered.

11.35 When considering edge of centre and out of centre proposals, preference should be given to accessible sites which are well connected to the town centre. Applicants and local planning authorities should demonstrate flexibility on issues such as format and scale, so that opportunities to utilise suitable town centre or edge of centre sites are fully explored[8] .

11.36 Town Centre [9]  boundaries and Primary Shopping Areas [10]  have been identified for Yeovil, Chard, Crewkerne, Ilminster, Wincanton, Ansford/Castle Cary, Somerton, Langport/Huish Episcopi, Bruton, Ilchester, Martock, Milborne Port, and South Petherton, where it is expected that new town centre uses will be accommodated. Whilst the retail study broadly confirms these boundaries, an early review of them is proposed to ensure they provide sufficient opportunities to support town centre vitality and viability.

11.37 The Local Plan does not allocate land for retailing as evidence in the retail study suggests there is sufficient land available in existing town centres to meet short-term needs. The Council may consider identifying sites or extending the boundary of Town Centres during the course of the review process to accommodate the medium to long term need.

11.38 National guidance requires local planning authorities to apply the sequential approach to planning applications for main town centre uses that are not in an existing centre and not in accordance with an up to date local plan. Paragraph 25 of the NPPF[11] is clear, however, that the sequential test should not be applied to applications for small-scale rural offices or other small-scale rural development; applicants are urged to partake in pre-application discussions with the Local Authority in relation to such schemes.

11.39 The preferred locations for town centre uses are set out in Policy TC5. The retail study clearly states that future proposals for out-of-centre retail development should be carefully considered, and prevented, if it can be demonstrated (through an Impact Assessment - see Policy TC6) they would soak up significant amounts of identified capacity and/or harm opportunities for Town Centre redevelopment/expansion.

11.40 In order to achieve the Government's aspirations for a strong 'High Street', retail proposals will be encouraged within town centres, subject to being of an appropriate scale for the role of the centre concerned, and also subject to their impact on other centres in meeting their communities' needs. Parking provision required in association with retail development should take into account the town centre context including its role for the wider community, be sufficient for the development itself, and support additional provision so that the town centre's accessibility and viability is enhanced.

11.41 Applications for town centre uses that are not in an existing centre or in accordance with an up to date Development Plan should be refused planning permission where the applicant has not demonstrated compliance with the sequential approach to site selection, or where there is clear evidence that the proposal would seriously affect the vitality and viability of a nearby Town Centre.

 

POLICY TC5 – LOCATION OF MAIN TOWN CENTRE USES (THE SEQUENTIAL APPROACH)

I. In order to sustain and enhance the vitality and viability of town centres, new proposals for town centre uses will be permitted, firstly, within Yeovil Town Centre Shopping Area and the defined Town Centres of Market Towns, District Centres and Local Centres, followed by Edge-of-Centre locations, then Out-of-Centre sites that are, or will be, well served by a choice of sustainable modes of transport and are close to the centre, or, in relation to bulky goods retailing, are located immediately adjacent to existing retail warehousing.

ii. Proposals should be of a scale appropriate to the size and function of the town centre and should help to sustain and enhance the vitality and viability of the centre.

iii. Applications for town centre uses which are not in an existing Town Centre and not in accordance with an up to date Development Plan will be refused planning permission where the applicant has not demonstrated compliance with the sequential approach to site selection, or there is clear evidence that the proposal, either alone or combined with other recent and outstanding planning permissions, would seriously affect the vitality and viability of a nearby Town Centre.

iv. Parking will be considered within the context of wider Town Centre parking.

7. NPPF 2019 Paragraph 86 [back]
8. NPPF 2019 Paragraph 87 [back]
9. See Glossary for definition [back]
10. See Glossary for definition [back]
11. NPPF 2019 Paragraph 25 [back]

Retail Hierarchy and Retail Impact Assessments

11.42 National guidance [12]  states that in the case of planning applications for retail and leisure development outside of town centres, which are not in accordance with an up-to-date plan, an impact assessment is required if the development is over a proportionate, locally set floorspace threshold (if there is no locally set threshold, the default threshold is 2,500m2 of gross floorspace). This should include assessment of:

a) the impact of the proposal on existing, committed and planned public and private investment in a centre (or centres) in the catchment area of the proposal; and

b) the impact of the proposal on town centre vitality and viability, including local consumer choice and trade in the town centre and the wider retail catchment (as applicable to the scale and nature of the scheme).

11.43 Where an application fails to satisfy the sequential test or is likely to have significant adverse impact on one or more of the considerations in paragraph 89, it should be refused.

11.44 Local research demonstrates that whilst most of the District's town centres are reasonably healthy, some are relatively small and lack Town Centre sites, and therefore, could be vulnerable to the impacts of inappropriately scaled proposals. A gross floorspace threshold of 2,500 sq. m would not be sufficient to assess the impact of convenience retail proposals on the District's centres as the majority of proposals over the last 10 years have fallen below this threshold.

11.45 The rural nature of the District and the size of its smaller centres justifies a need to also look at the impact of any significant out of centre proposals as these could also detract from the High Street and have an impact on its vitality and viability.

11.46 The thresholds set out in Policy TC6 do not imply that anything above is an inappropriate scale and should not be awarded planning permission, but simply that it would need to demonstrate there would not be a significant adverse impact.

11.47 The requirement to undertake a retail impact assessment will not only be confined to major new developments; in some cases, extensions, redevelopment or variation of conditions can materially alter the effects of a development. The cumulative impact of recent/committed proposals may also be particularly relevant in some cases.

11.48 Where there is clear evidence that a proposal is likely to lead to significant adverse impacts, applications will be refused. The health of town centres (including vitality and viability indicators) and town centre or retail strategies will be considered as part of the assessment.

 

POLICY TC6 – FLOORSPACE THRESHOLDS FOR IMPACT ASSESSMENTS

i.  In order to ensure that full consideration is given to the scale of development and whether this would have any significant adverse impacts, proposals involving additional retail floorspace, that is in excess of the following thresholds, should be accompanied by a Retail Impact Assessment in accordance with national planning guidance.

ii.

Settlement Classification

South Somerset

Settlements

Retail Floorspace

Threshold (gross)

Principal Centre

Yeovil

500m2

Market Towns

Chard, Crewkerne, Ilminster, and Wincanton

500 m2

District Centres

Langport & Huish Episcopi, Ansford & Castle Cary, and Somerton

250 m2

Local Centres

Bruton, Ilchester, Martock, Milborne Port, and South Petherton

250 m2

 

iii. Proposals for retail development up to and including the above floorspace thresholds will generally be regarded as being of a scale that would not result in significant adverse impacts.

iv. Where Impact Assessments present evidence of significant adverse impacts on an existing town centre, development will be refused.

12. NPPF 2019 Paragraph 89 [back]

Protection of Retail Uses in Primary Shopping Areas

11.49 The NPPF no longer differentiates between Primary and Secondary Shopping Frontages, but does still state that the Local Authority should define the extent of Town Centres and Primary Shopping Areas and make clear the range of uses permitted in such locations.

11.50 The Primary Shopping Area is defined in the NPPF as “the area where retail  development is concentrated” and this definition has also been used to inform what is considered an “edge-of-centre” location for the purposes of applying the sequential approach (Policy TC5 refers). Within identified Primary Shopping Areas, where streets are dominated by shops and have the greatest pedestrian footfall, planning applications that would result in the loss of retail premises will be considered against their impact on the core retail role of the Area.

11.51 Primary Shopping Areas have been defined on the Proposals Map in Yeovil, Chard, Crewkerne, Ilminster, Langport and Huish Episcopi, and Somerton.

 

POLICY TC7 – PROTECTION OF RETAIL USES IN PRIMARY SHOPPING AREAS

i. Development proposals resulting in a change of use from retail (class A1 of the use classes order) to non-retail on ground floors within the defined Primary Shopping Areas will be permitted, except where the number or coalescence of such uses would undermine the dominant retail function.

ii. In order to guide decisions relating to actual numbers and/or coalescence and the impact resulting, the following criteria will be taken into account:

  1. The location and prominence of the premises within the Primary Shopping Area;
  2. The floorspace and length of frontage of the premises;
  3. The number, distribution and proximity to other non-A1 use class premises (or with consent for such use) within the Primary Shopping Area in question, and throughout the town centre;
  4. The character and nature of the use proposed, including the level of pedestrian activity associated with it;
  5. The level of vacancies; and
  6. Whether the proposed use would give rise to noise, smell or other environmental problem.

Neighbourhood Centres

11.52 A Neighbourhood Centre is a small parade of shops of purely neighbourhood significance generally located within large residential estates and designed to give access to day-to-day, top-up items. New Neighbourhood Centres to serve proposed new developments should complement rather than compete with the retail facilities in nearby town centres. This consideration is particularly relevant in relation to the local services and facilities that will be required as part of the planned Sustainable Urban Extensions for Yeovil and the strategic allocation for Chard. Opportunities for serving the wider community in the Yeovil area with new infrastructure and facilities should be fully explored in the relevant Masterplans.

 

POLICY TC8 – NEIGHBOURHOOD CENTRES

Development of Neighbourhood Centres shall be of a scale and type to meet the local needs of the area within which they will be located and must not adversely affect the vitality and viability of any town centres identified by the local authority.

Protection and Provision of Local Shops, Community Facilities and Services

11.53 Every settlement has buildings or amenities that play a vital role in local life, such as community centres, libraries, village shops, post offices or pubs. Local life would not be the same without them, and if they closed or changed to private use, it would be a real loss to the community.

11.54 National guidance requires local planning authorities to take into account the importance of local shops and services to communities when considering planning applications affecting such facilities. The guidance states that planning policies and decisions should guard against the unnecessary loss of valued facilities and services, particularly where this would reduce the community's ability to meet its day-to-day needs [13] .

11.55 Policy TC9 requires applicants submitting any proposal to redevelop an existing local amenity to an alternative use, which would not be of benefit to the community and would result in a significant or total loss of that service or facility, to either provide alternative provision, or demonstrate that there are no suitable, viable, alternative community uses. Details of the requirements for establishing viability and marketing are outlined in the Council's guidance document 'Commercial Marketing of Property in Relation to Planning and Listed Building Applications' which will be reviewed and reproduced as necessary and appropriate. Where decisions on viability are finely balanced, a third party will be expected to advise the District Council and this will be at cost to the applicant.

11.56 In addition to determining the commercial viability of a local service/facility or shop, applicants will be expected to demonstrate that a social enterprise model (community ownership) for re-use has been explored where a significant loss of a facility is identified. By pooling efforts and finding out what level of commitment the village can support, a community-owned shop/service may succeed where a commercial enterprise has failed.

11.57 The Localism Act requires local authorities to maintain a list of assets of community value which have been nominated by the local community, and when listed assets come up for sale or change of ownership, the Act gives community groups the time to develop a bid and raise money to buy the asset when it comes onto the local market. The community is usually keener to support a venture in which they have an economic and social interest and staff costs can be reduced by volunteer involvement.

11.58 Communities will be expected to pay a fair price for any site/premises they wish to purchase, so that the landowner is not commercially restricted.

11.59 In terms of demonstrating that all reasonable efforts to secure a suitable alternative community re-use has been explored, applicants will firstly be expected to demonstrate that they have consulted the Parish and District Council, and used local evidence, such as the Parish Plan to identify deficiencies and establish the local need for services and facilities. Applicants will then be expected to demonstrate why, if there is an identified need for a certain type of community facility, the site/premises in question has not met that need. Applicants are encouraged to engage with the District Council during the early stages of any marketing exercise or when exploring alternative uses, as guidance and advice can be given on various aspects of economic and community development.

11.60 National guidance requires planning applications that promote the retention of existing, and development of new local shops, facilities, and services to be responded to positively by the local planning authority, Policy TC9 supports this approach.

 

POLICY TC9 - PROTECTION AND PROVISION OF LOCAL SHOPS, COMMUNITY FACILITIES AND SERVICES

Provision of new community facilities and services will be supported. Proposals that would result in a significant or total loss of a site and/or premises currently or last used for a local shop, post office, public house, community or cultural facility, or other service that contributes towards the sustainability of a local settlement, will not be permitted except where the applicant demonstrates that:

  1. alternative provision of equivalent or better quality, that is accessible to that local community, is available within the settlement, or will be provided and made available prior to commencement of redevelopment; or
  2. there is no reasonable prospect of retention of the existing use as it is unviable as demonstrated by a viability assessment, and all reasonable efforts to secure suitable alternative business or community re-use, or social enterprise, have been made for a minimum of 12 months or a period agreed by the Local Planning Authority prior to application submission.
13. NPPF 2019 Paragraph 92 [back]