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Policy SD7 Town centre network


  1. The changing roles of town centres should be proactively managed in relation to the town centre network as a whole (see Figure 2.17 and Annex 1). This process should support sustainable economic growth across the Greater London boundary to enhance the vitality and viability of London’s centres and complement those in the Wider South East.
  2. Identified deficiencies in the London town centre network can be addressed by promoting centres to function at a higher level in the network, designating new centres (see Annex 1) or reassessing town centre boundaries (see Policy SD8 Town centres: development principles and Development Plan Documents). Centres with current or projected declining demand for commercial, particularly retail, floorspace may be reclassified at a lower level in the hierarchy.
  3. The classification of International, Metropolitan and Major town centres (see Annex 1) can only be changed through the London Plan. Potential future changes to the strategic town centre network are set out in Figure A1.1 in Annex 1. Changes to District, Local and Neighbourhood centres can be brought forward through Local Plans where supported by evidence in development capacity assessments and town centre health checks and subject to assessments of retail impact where appropriate (see Policy SD8 Town centres: development principles and Development Plan Documents).
  4. International, Metropolitan and Major town centres should be the focus for the majority of higher order comparison goods retailing, whilst securing opportunities for higher density employment, leisure and residential development in a high quality environment.
  5. District centres should focus on the consolidation of a viable range of functions, particularly convenience retailing, leisure, local employment and workspace, whilst addressing the challenges of new forms of retailing and securing opportunities to realise their potential for higher density mixed-use residential development and improvements to their environment.
  6. Local and neighbourhood centres should focus on providing convenient and attractive access by walking and cycling to local goods and services needed on a day-to-day basis.
  7. Boroughs and other stakeholders should have regard to the broad policy guidelines for individual town centres in Annex 1 including:
    1. indicative growth potential (commercial and residential)
    2. centres associated with the Areas for Regeneration (see Policy SD10 Strategic and local regeneration)
    3. night-time economy roles (see Policy HC6 Supporting the night-time economy)
    4. viable office locations including those with strategic office development potential and/or need to retain existing office functions in light of office to residential permitted development rights (see Policy E1 Offices).

London’s town centre network is a vital element of London’s economy and is crucial for meeting the needs of Londoners and those who work in and visit London. It promotes a broad distribution of centres of different roles and sizes across the capital, complementing the role of the Central Activities Zone, allowing all parts of London to access a wide variety of services, and enabling and encouraging local economies to thrive. Figure 2.4 shows typical characteristics of town centres within each classification.

The town centre network is dynamic, and allows the role and function of centres to change over time. The role of individual centres within the network will need to be proactively managed in order to ensure that the network as a whole continues to serve the needs of Londoners and London’s economy. In some instances, particularly within Opportunity Areas, it may be appropriate to designate new town centres to meet the needs of the local community and to serve areas of deficiency for certain uses. It may also be appropriate to re-classify some existing centres, in order to respond to shifts in demand for commercial uses or to reflect significant spatial, environmental and public transport connectivity improvements to existing out-of-centre retail parks.

Given the strategic importance of the larger town centres, changes to the classification of existing or proposed International, Metropolitan and Major centres must only be undertaken through the London Plan. Changes to the classification of District, Local and Neighbourhood centres can be brought forward in Local Plans. It is important that any changes or additions to the town centres network are supported by robust evidence, particularly looking at the wider impact on the network, informed by regular town centre health checks, and undertaken alongside reviews of town centre boundaries. To assist with this process, Table A1.1 in Annex 1 provides an indication of potential future changes to the town centre network over the Plan period, including new potential centres.

These centres are not recommended for immediate reclassification, however it is recognised that they may be appropriate for future reclassification, subject to strategic and Local Plan policies and conditional on matters such as capacity analysis, impact assessments, land use, public transport, walking and cycling, planning approvals and full implementation. Many of the areas identified as future potential town centres, and centres with the potential to be reclassified at a higher level in the town centre hierarchy (see Annex 1), currently contain retail parks, dominated by large format stores and heavily reliant on travel by car. For these areas to be reclassified, a clear strategy should be developed and implemented that secures a broader mix of store sizes and formats and a variety of town centre uses including retail, leisure, employment and social infrastructure, subject to demand, capacity and impact. The sizes and uses of premises should relate to the role of the future centre within the town centre hierarchy. Such areas also present significant opportunities to reduce reliance on car travel, create attractive and welcoming places that encourage and enable walking, cycling and the use of public transport, and facilitate new housing.