Cornered shops: London's small shops and the planning system

28 July 2010

Our report - Cornered Shops - says the Mayor should change his policies to give councils more ways to protect local shops from retail developments.

Our Planning and Housing Committee documents the drastic decline of neighbourhood shops in London, and calls for changes to local, regional and national planning policies to offer them more protection.

Along with the economic downturn, the rise of the big supermarkets and their move into ‘local format’ stores, like ‘Tesco Metro’ and ‘Sainsbury’s Local’, has also contributed to the loss of smaller retailers. The report calls on the Mayor to make changes to his London Plan to strengthen protection for local shops and give boroughs more power to resist or negotiate on planning applications from big retailers.

Follow-up to the report

One of the key aims of the report was to make recommendations to the Mayor and boroughs for incorporation of policies into the revision of the London Plan in order to provide more effective support to small shops and high streets.  We were successful in that the replacement London Plan included a new policy on small shops, policy 4.9 (small shops) that proposed the Mayor would seek contributions through planning obligations to support the provision of affordable shop units suitable for small or independent retailers and that the boroughs should develop local policies to support the provision of small shop units.

Background

In the London Plan Examination in Public the Assembly was represented in the discussion about policy 4.9 (small shops). The Examination in Public took place at City Hall over the summer of 2010. The Inspectors report of the Examination in Public (published in May 2011) noted: "This policy attracted the greatest degree of controversy of all aspects of retailing."

The Inspector further noted that: "The London Assembly, basing comments on their report Cornered shops – London’s small shops and the planning system which was finalised in July 2010, also suggests that the Mayor explore the potential for the policy to apply to new retail, or mixed use development proposals that are smaller than 2,500 m2 if Boroughs consider that to be appropriate.

"They also believe that the Plan should encourage Boroughs to stipulate that there should be policies to protect retail uses in neighbourhood parades within walking distance and suggest there is merit in debating how the objectives of Policy 4.9 can be linked with the concept of "lifetime neighbourhoods" (Policy 7.1). In short they support a small shops policy though one with a wider focus than that included in the Consultation."