Proposed Submission Local Plan 2006-2028

Protection and Provision of Local Shops, Community Facilities and Services

8.114 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.

8.115 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[1].

8.116 Policy EP15 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 SPD. 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.

8.117 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 the money to buy the asset when it comes on the local market.

8.118 Prior to the establishment of a list, 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[2]) 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 is one way forward. Community ownership can succeed where a commercial enterprise has failed because:

  • Staff costs can be reduced by volunteer involvement;
  • The difficulty of finding and affording suitable premises can be overcome by community ownership;
  • Community-run enterprises have a better chance of survival than independent shops because the community is usually keener to support a venture in which they have an economic and social interest.

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

8.120 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.

8.121 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 EP15 supports this approach.

Policy EP15: 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 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:

  • 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
  • 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 maximum of 18 months or a period agreed by the Local Planning Authority prior to application submission.

8.122 Delivery will be private sector led, or through a social enterprise model.

8.123 The following delivery bodies will be key in implementing Policy EP15:

  • South Somerset District Council;
  • Town and Parish Councils;
  • Developers and Landowners.
Monitoring Indicators Target
Range and type of facilities available in Rural Centres and Rural Settlements Reduce the number and rate of local shops, facilities and services lost over time
Changes of use of Listed Assets Retain Listed Assets and facilities of importance to the local community to prevent social exclusion
1. NPPF March 2012 Paragraph 70 [back]
2. A community-owned shop/service is one in which there is community involvement in either the setting up or the running of the shop/service [back]