Policy 4.7 Retail and town centre development



A  The Mayor supports a strong, partnership approach to assessing need and bringing forward capacity for retail, commercial, culture and leisure development in town centres (see Policy 2.15).

Planning decisions

B  In taking planning decisions on proposed retail and town centre development, the following principles should be applied:

a  the scale of retail, commercial, culture and leisure development should be related to the size, role and function of a town centre and its catchment

b  retail, commercial, culture and leisure development should be focused on sites within town centres, or if no in-centre sites are available, on sites on the edges of centres that are, or can be, well integrated with the existing centre and public transport

c  proposals for new, or extensions to existing, edge or out of centre development will be subject to an assessment of impact.

LDF preparation

C  In preparing LDFs, boroughs should:

a  identify future levels of retail and other commercial floorspace need (or where appropriate consolidation of surplus floorspace – see Policy 2.15) in light of integrated strategic and local assessments

b  undertake regular town centre health checks to inform strategic and local policy and implementation

c  take a proactive partnership approach to identify capacity and bring forward development within or, where appropriate, on the edge of town centres

d  firmly resist inappropriate out of centre development

e  manage existing out of centre retail and leisure development in line with the sequential approach, seeking to reduce car dependency, improve public transport, cycling and walking access and promote more sustainable forms of development.

Supporting text

4.40  At a time of significant change in London’s economy, demography, consumer behaviour and retailing there are inevitably uncertainties in projecting future consumer expenditure and shopping floorspace requirements. However, underlying these must be recognition of the pressures for structural change in retailing, the way these may be expressed through demand for, and use of floorspace and the probability of a long term contraction in floorspace growth relative to that which was anticipated in the past (see Policy 2.15). Thus, Experian[1] suggests that London’s long-term household expenditure could rise from £124 billion in 2011 to over £234 billion by 2036.  London household expenditure on comparison goods retail is projected to rise from £23 billion in 2011 to over £48 billion by 2036, an annual average growth rate of 3.0 per cent. However, taking account of growth in commuter and tourist spending, retailers making more efficient use of existing space and special forms of retailing like e-tailing, it is estimated that London could have a baseline need for an additional 0.9 - 2.2 million sq.m of comparison goods retail floorspace by 2036[2]. When schemes in the planning pipeline are factored into the analysis, London could need an additional 0.4 - 1.6 million sq.m of comparison goods retail floorspace by 2036.

4.41  About one third of the gross baseline need for additional comparison goods retail floorspace is in outer London and 45 per cent is in the CAZ. Guidance on the more local distribution of these requirements will be set out in supplementary guidance on town centres.

4.42  London’s household expenditure on convenience goods retail is expected to increase from £12 billion in 2011 to £22 billion by 2036, an annual average growth rate of 2.2 per cent[3]. Integrated strategic and local assessments of need and capacity for comparison and convenience goods retail will be an important part of the process for LDF preparation.

4.42A  Reflecting wider trends in retailing highlighted in the Mary Portas report and in the work of the Outer London Commission, the London-wide retail need assessment suggests that in some parts of the capital there may be an overall surplus provision of retail floorspace relative to demand, especially if the pipeline of permitted schemes is implemented. Policy 2.15 shows how this might be addressed through opportunities for mixed use, high density, housing led redevelopment.  Underlying demand for modern forms of retailing will also provide such opportunities, even in centres which do not appear to have surplus provision.

4.42B  Taking into account both strategic and local retail capacity assessments, provision for future demand should be managed carefully in local plans for individual centres and include policies for primary shopping areas and primary and secondary frontages in the context of wider town centre management and initiatives (see Policy 2.15). When considering proposals for prior approval of changes from retail to residential and other associated works, account should be taken of their impact on design, the economic health of the centre, provision of essential local services and the character of the local area as well as broader strategic concerns outlined in Policy 2.15 and 4.7.

 4.43  To meet identified needs and to support the vitality and viability of town centres (see Policy 2.15), the Mayor supports a proactive approach to improving the quality of retail floorspace and managing growth (or consolidation where there is surplus floorspace) within and on the edges of town centres, and encourages joint work between public and private sectors to identify and bring forward new retail, leisure and commercial development opportunities. Boroughs are encouraged to consider the use of compulsory purchase powers to facilitate land assembly for town centre development where appropriate. In carrying out town centre health checks, boroughs should include an assessment of the capacity of each town centre to accommodate additional retail and other commercial development appropriate to its role within the network. This supply side assessment should be set against an assessment of the need for new development on a borough and Londonwide basis. Where need is established, boroughs should adopt a sequential approach to identifying suitable sites to accommodate it.

4.44  Areas in and around town centres will be most appropriate for higher density development in line with the locational strategy in Chapter 2. Development of edge-of-centre locations should be well integrated with the town centre, particularly in terms of providing safe, convenient and attractive access by walking and cycling.

4.45  New, or extensions to existing, out of centre retailing and leisure development can compromise the strong ‘town centres first’ policy (see also Policy 2.15) which is essential to London’s development as a sustainable, liveable city as well as exacerbating road traffic congestion and, for the large numbers of Londoners who do not have a car, undermining this Plan’s social inclusion policies. Inappropriate out of centre development includes that which causes harm to the objectives of this Plan, which fails to fulfil the requirements of the sequential test, or which gives rise to significant adverse impacts (for example, on the vitality and viability of existing town centres, accessibility by a choice of means of transport or impacts on overall travel patterns).

4.46  London has a legacy of out- and edge-of-centre retail and other town centre type activities which are heavily car dependent. They should be managed in ways that reduce this dependency and improve public transport, cycling and pedestrian access. In some circumstances, generally relating to edge of centre developments, there may be potential for a wider mix of uses and greater integration with existing centres.

[1] Experian Business Strategies. Consumer Expenditure and Comparison Goods Retail Floorspace Need in London, GLA 2013

[2] Experian Business Strategies 2013 op cit. The estimates are based on a central assumption of floorspace productivity growth of 1.9% per annum. The upper figure in each range is the gross total requirement, the lower figure in each range is the net requirement after factoring in vacant floorspace

[3] Experian Business Strategies 2013 op cit.