Draft Core Strategy (incorporating Preferred Options) October 2010

Draft Core Strategy (incorporating Preferred Options)

Retention of Services and Facilities

9.103 For some years, rural shops and services have been in much faster comparative decline than equivalent services across the country. The loss of the sole local shop, post office, public house or other service within a village can significantly affect the ability of local residents to access services. Such losses can threaten the viability and vitality of rural communities and have serious social and economic impacts upon residents especially certain groups such as the low paid, young and elderly. PPS4 requires local planning authorities to take into account the importance of local shops and services to local centres and villages when considering planning applications affecting such facilities. The guidance states that planning applications that fail to protect existing facilities that meet communities’ day-to-day needs should be refused. In addition planning applications for the conversion or extension of shops which are designed to improve their viability are to be positively supported.

9.104 In line with national guidance, Policy EP16 requires applicants submitting any proposal to redevelop an existing local shop, post office, public house or other service such as church hall or sports/leisure facility for an alternative use to either provide alternative similar provision or provide robust and credible evidence of viability and marketing particularly if this would result in total loss of the service or facility. The argument that the use/site is no longer viable and there are no suitable, viable alternative community uses will not be accepted without proper evidence.

9.105 All applications which would result in significant or total loss of a service or facility must demonstrate that a reasonable attempt has been made to continue the present use, or (where appropriate) find suitable new or mixed uses that are compatible with the buildings or land and location. The key elements required by the document are set out above in the ‘Safeguarding Employment Land’ section of the chapter.[1]

9.106 In addition to establishing the commercial viability of shops or services on the open market, applicants will be expected to demonstrate that a social enterprise model for re-use has been explored. Increasingly, villages have become determined to do something about the closure of their village shop, public house or other services and a tried and tested solution is for these communities to set up their own community-owned shop/service. 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. By pooling efforts and finding out what level of commitment a village can often succeed where a commercial enterprise 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.

9.107 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.

9.108 In terms of demonstrating that all reasonable efforts to secure a suitable alternative community re-use have 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.[2]

9.109 PPS4 also requires any identified deficiencies in local shopping and other facilities that serve people’s day-to-day needs to be remedied and action taken to help address social exclusion, and planning applications for the conversion or extension of shops which are designed to improve their viability, are to be responded to positively by the local planning authority and Policy EP16 supports this approach.

9.110 A local Parish Plan may assist in informing the need for services and facilities.

Policy EP16 Protection and Provision of Local Shops, Community Facilities and Services
 

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 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 at least the previous 18 months (as set out in Policy EP3 Safeguarding Employment Land).
1. The Council has produced a guidance document which is available on the Council's web site: "Commercial Marketing of Property in Relation to Planning and Listed Building Applications" [back]
2. The Council has produced a guidance document which is available on request: "Commercial Marketing of Property in Relation to Planning and Listed Building Applications" [back]