- Development Plans and development proposals should take a town centres first approach by:
- adopting a sequential approach to accommodating town centre uses including retail, commercial, offices, leisure, entertainment, culture, tourism and hotels such that new development of these uses is focused on sites within town centres or (if no sites are available, suitable or viable) on sites on the edges of centres that are, or can be, well integrated with the existing centre, local walking and cycle networks, and public transport
- firmly resisting out-of-centre development of town centre uses in line with the sequential approach in A(1) above, with limited exceptions for existing viable office locations in outer London (see Policy E1 Offices)
- providing an impact assessment on proposals for new, or extensions to existing, edge or out-of-centre development for town centre uses in part A(1) above that are not in accordance with the Development Plan
- realising the full potential of existing out of centre retail and leisure parks to deliver housing intensification through redevelopment and ensure such locations become more sustainable in transport terms, by securing improvements to public transport, cycling and walking. This should not result in a net increase in retail or leisure floorspace in an out-of-centre location having regard to parts A(1), (2) and (3) above.
- In Development Plans, boroughs should:
- define the detailed boundary of town centres in policy maps including the overall extent of the town centre (taking into consideration associated high streets which have particular economic or social value) along with specific policy-related designations such as primary shopping areas, primary and secondary frontages and night-time economy in light of demand/capacity assessments for town centre uses and housing
- develop policies through strategic and local partnership approaches (Policy SD9 Town centres: Local partnerships and implementation) to meet the objectives for town centres set out in Policy SD6 Town centres to support the development, intensification and enhancement of each centre, having regard to the current and potential future role of the centre in the network (Policy SD7 Town centre network)
- develop policies for the edge and fringes of town centres, revising the extent of shopping frontages where surplus to forecast demand and introducing greater flexibility, permitting a range of non-residential uses particularly in secondary frontages taking into account local circumstances
- identify centres that have particular scope to accommodate new commercial development and higher density housing, having regard to the growth potential indicators for individual centres in Annex 1. Criteria to consider in assessing the potential for intensification in town centres include:
- assessments of demand for retail, office and other commercial uses
- assessments of capacity for additional housing
- public transport accessibility and capacity
- planned or potential transport improvements – to indicate future capacity for intensification
- existing and potential level of density of development and activity
- relationship with wider regeneration initiatives
- vacant land and floorspace – as a further measure of demand and also of under-utilisation of the existing centre
- potential to complement local character, existing heritage assets and improve the quality of the town centre environment
- viability of development.
- identify sites suitable for higher density mixed-use residential intensification capitalising on the availability of services within walking and cycling distance and current and future public transport provision including, for example:
- comprehensive redevelopment of low-density supermarket sites, surface car parks, and edge of centre retail/leisure parks
- redevelopment of town centre shopping frontages that are surplus to demand
- redevelopment of other low-density town centre buildings that are not of heritage value, particularly where there is under-used space on upper floors, whilst re-providing non-residential uses
- delivering residential above existing commercial, social infrastructure and transport infrastructure uses or re-providing these uses as part of a mixed-use development.
- support flexibility for temporary or ‘meanwhile’ uses of vacant properties.
- Development proposals should:
- ensure that commercial floorspace relates to the size and the role and function of a town centre and its catchment
- ensure that commercial space is appropriately located having regard to Part A above, fit for purpose, with at least basic fit-out and not compromised in terms of layout, street frontage, floor to ceiling heights and servicing, and marketed at rental levels that are related to demand in the area or similar to surrounding existing properties
- support efficient delivery and servicing in town centres including the provision of collection points for business deliveries in a way that minimises negative impacts on the environment, public realm, the safety of all road users, and the amenity of neighbouring residents
- support the diversity of town centres by providing a range of commercial unit sizes, particularly on larger-scale developments.
The London Plan takes a strong town centres first approach, in order to make the most of the agglomeration benefits and accessibility of town centres and to ensure sustainable patterns of development. Out-of-centre development can be particularly detrimental to town centres, undermining their economic performance, local character, and the accessibility they provide to a broad range of services, and encouraging increased trips by car. In order to support the vitality of town centres, it is important to take a sequential approach, focusing on sites within town centres before considering edge-of-centre sites. This ensures that town centre uses are not unnecessarily dispersed, maximises the overall growth potential of town centres and promotes investment in high streets and primary shopping frontages.
Where edge-of-centre developments of town centre uses are proposed, and are not in accordance with the Development Plan, these should be accompanied by a robust and detailed impact assessment. This applies to retail, leisure and office development greater than 2,500 sq m. An impact assessment may also be required for developments below this threshold, for example where a borough has set a proportionate, local floorspace threshold. Impact assessment may also be required where a proposal is likely to give rise to development at a scale not related to the role and function of a centre, such as a large retail store in or on the edge of a neighbourhood or local centre.
Existing out-of-centre and edge-of-centre retail and leisure parks are often low density and car dependent, poorly integrated into the surrounding area. They usually suffer from an environment that creates barriers to cycling and walking, with extensive surface car parks and buildings that have large footprints and limited active frontages. Many of these places have significant potential to provide additional housing, improve the impact on the local environment, improve legibility, and become more sustainable in the modes of transport they enable and encourage. Redevelopment of retail and leisure parks to deliver housing intensification is encouraged, as set out in Policy H1 Increasing housing supply. This should not generally result in an increase of retail or leisure floorspace, taking account of the town centres first approach, the sequential approach to town centre uses, and impact assessments where appropriate. Some edge-of-centre retail parks may be appropriate for a wider range of employment uses, subject to sequential testing and impact assessment.
The location, design, type, and level of fit-out of commercial uses, particularly those in mixed-use development, should support the town centres first approach and ensure that commercial premises make a positive contribution to the vitality of the area and are quickly occupied. Out-of-centre housing-led developments should seek to maximise the provision of housing and create active frontages and welcoming streetscapes through the provision of ground floor windows, front doors and front gardens where appropriate. Where commercial uses are appropriate, it is important that the units are prominently and accessibly situated and clustered together. They should have flexible layouts with few columns or risers, be of a suitable depth to be able to accommodate back-of-house functions, and have adequate floor-to-ceiling heights. Units should be weather-tight and partially fitted-out, such as with toilets, kitchenettes, heating and services, to make them commercially attractive to potential occupiers, before residential units are occupied. A range of unit sizes should be provided, to ensure that town centres can provide floorspace for both large and small occupiers, and to support the diversity, vitality and vibrancy of town centres.