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Policy SD9 Town centres: Local partnerships and implementation


  1. To develop strong, resilient and adaptable town centres, fulfilling their full potential to accommodate growth and development, strategic and local partnership approaches, community engagement, town centre management, business associations and Business Improvement Districts should be supported and encouraged. Each town centre should have a Town Centre Strategy produced in partnership at the local level in a way that is inclusive and representative of the local community.
  2. Regular town centre health checks should be undertaken to inform strategic and local policy and implementation.
  3. Boroughs should:
    1. introduce targeted Article 4 Directions where appropriate and justified to remove permitted development rights for office, light industrial and retail to residential in order to sustain town centre vitality and viability and to maintain flexibility for more comprehensive approaches to town centre housing and mixed-use intensification. When considering office to residential Article 4 Directions in town centres, boroughs are encouraged to take into account guidelines in Annex 1 and Policy E1 Offices as well as local circumstances
    2. take a proactive and partnership-based approach to bring sites forward for redevelopment, supporting land assembly in collaboration with local stakeholders including, where appropriate, through the compulsory purchase process
    3. consider the range of mechanisms to deliver housing intensification, mixed-use development and ongoing asset management such as town centre investment models and the contribution of specialist forms of housing investment.

Each town centre is unique. They have their own economic geographies, specialisms and character. They are changing in different ways, and have different relationships with the residential and other areas around them. Some have more capacity and potential to grow than others. All town centres, however, will change – many of them significantly – due to the restructuring of the retail sector and other changes in the wider economy. It is therefore crucial that a strategy is developed for each town centre, to ensure that the local community continues to be well served and that the network of town centres across London continues to function successfully.

Town centre strategies should be tailored to each town centre, with a clear vision developed with the local community, taking account of the town centre’s strategic role, opportunities for growth, and potential to support regeneration. Strategies should also consider the role of the night-time economy, as well as the cultural, heritage and tourism characteristics of the area. Town centre strategies should cover a broad remit, co-ordinating a tailored approach to planning, environmental health, licensing, Healthy Streets, transport strategy, highways management, logistics and servicing, regeneration, air quality, investment and projects. They should be developed with input from relevant stakeholders, including TfL, commercial landlords and investors, Business Improvement Districts and business associations, social infrastructure providers, Historic England, and community and amenity groups. Town centre strategies should pay particular regard to the social benefits of high streets and town centres, especially the formal and informal networks that support local communities, and should have regard to commercial and social activity that serves particular groups and communities.

Boroughs should undertake town centre health checks regularly. This should be informed by the London-wide town centre health check[22] and should be tailored to local circumstances. Town centre health checks should take information from a variety of sources, including desk-based research as well as on-the-ground surveys, to establish the overall health of the town centre. This should include an analysis of the performance of commercial premises in the town centre as well as wider issues such as environmental quality and accessibility.


[22] London Town Centre Health Check, GLA 2017

In many town centres in London, there is particular pressure on commercial floorspace to be converted to residential use. In order to ensure the vitality and vibrancy of town centres it is important that they contain an appropriate mix and quantity of office and other commercial floorspace, which can be supported through Article 4 Directions. Article 4 Directions can also be a useful tool for ensuring that development is undertaken in accordance with the Development Plan, particularly where comprehensive redevelopment is planned. In putting in place Article 4 Directions, boroughs should have regard to local evidence such as employment land and premises studies and the indicative categorisations for individual town centres set out in Annex 1.

The implementation of policy to diversify, intensify and realise the housing potential of town centres can be supported by a range of mechanisms for investment and ongoing management. Examples include Real Estate Investment Trusts, Local Asset-Backed Vehicles and Tax Increment Financing as well as specialist forms of housing investment such as Build to Rent, older people’s and student housing.