Local Plan to 2030 - Main Modifications September 2018

Main Modifications to Ashford Local Plan

Policy EMP7 – Primary and secondary shopping frontage in Ashford Town Centre (MM75)

Amend supporting text as follows:

5.183 With planning permission being granted for the a cinema, and restaurants, retail and hotel development under construction on Elwick Road in the southern part of the town centre, Bank Street will become an important pedestrian route linking the proposed leisure-led scheme and the High Street. In this respect, it is proposed that once this has been developed completed it will become part of the Primary Shopping Area, and designated as primary shopping frontage as this is shown by an extension to the existing PSA on the map in Policy EMP7.

5.184 In the past, frontage policies for Ashford Town Centre have restricted the amount of non-A1 uses within the primary shopping frontages, and the amount of A2 uses within the secondary areas of the Town Centre. With the introduction of more relaxed permitted development rights there is much more flexibility around proposed uses, and planning permission is not required for changes between different class A uses.

5.185 Town centres are changing and will no longer be solely supported by traditional retail development, having to expand their offer to wider uses in order to maintain their vitality and viability. Ashford Town Centre is no different. Recent trends show that the proportion of Class A1 within the primary frontage of Ashford Town Centre has fallen, which reflects national trends and a more flexible and pragmatic policy approach to the definition of the primary and secondary shopping frontages is required.

5.186 It is therefore not considered necessary to restrict particular percentages of retail uses in certain areas. It is considered that the primary shopping frontages will remain the predominant area for Class A uses, and that the secondary frontages will have a broader range of uses. The approach recognises the role of Ashford Town Centre as the primary shopping centre in the Borough, but understands that the future success of the town centre cannot solely rely on its function as a shopping destination. The town centre should be a place that residents and visitors want to visit, whether for shopping or for other purposes, such as business, leisure or entertainment.

The Council recognises that the flexibility provided by the current permitted development rights for commercial uses means that some changes of use would not require planning permission. Where planning permission is required the policy would apply.

The policy requires proposals to maintain or enhance the vitality and viability of the town centre. For proposals within the primary shopping frontage, the Council will take into account a range of factors in determining whether the proposals would achieve this. Some of these factors will apply only when considering applications for change of use that would result in the loss of A1 units, others would apply in all cases. Proposals will be determined on a case by case basis taking into account the following relevant factors.

The Council will take into account whether a particular unit has been vacant and the benefits of bringing that unit back into use. Consideration will be given to whether the proposal can add vibrancy, activity and pedestrian footfall to the area, and this is particularly important during daytime hours. It is also important that the unit has an active shopfront and is immediately accessible by the public from the front, which will ensure that it would be compatible with the nature of a retail area, and that it creates footfall and activity within the publically accessible areas of the town centre.

Where the proposal would result in the loss of A1 retail units, consideration should also be given to whether or not the proposal would result in an accumulation of non-A1 uses along a particular frontage, this could is some cases have a harmful impact upon the retail function of that part of the frontage and therefore be harmful to the vitality and viability of the town centre. The size and form of the unit may also be relevant, for example the loss of a larger or anchor A1 retail unit, which would normally be attractive to multiple retailers, could be more harmful than the loss of a smaller A1 unit.

Within the secondary shopping frontage, the main issue that will be considered in determining whether the proposal would maintain or enhance the vitality and viability of the town centre is whether the proposed use would attract pedestrian activity and footfall to the town centre, thereby supporting its vitality and viability.

5.187  Residential development plays an important role in the vitality and viability of a town centre, bringing people into the town at different times of the day, increasing footfall and supporting a more vibrant evening and night time economy. Residential development will therefore be supported in the town centre in suitable locations. However residential development on the ground floor within the Primary and Secondary Shopping Frontage would be harmful to the economic health of the town centre. Proposals for change of use to residential on the ground floor within this area will therefore be resisted when considering applications for prior approval.

5.188 The following policy defines the locations of the primary and secondary shopping frontages in Ashford Town Centre, as well as the Primary Shopping Area, and sets out what uses will be permitted in such locations.

Delete Policy EMP7 and replace with the following:

Policy EMP7 - Primary and Secondary Shopping Frontage in Ashford Town Centre

Primary and Secondary Shopping Frontages and the Primary Shopping Area are defined for Ashford Town Centre as set out on the Policies Map.

Within the Primary Shopping Frontages, permission will be granted for development falling within Use Class A1. Use Classes A2, A3, A4 and A5 will be permitted subject to the proposal maintaining or enhancing the centre’s vitality and viability, taking into account the following factors, where relevant:

a)    the impact the proposal will have on long term and persistent vacancy and the continued suitability and viability of the unit for A1 retail use

b)   the ability of the proposal to attract vibrancy, activity and pedestrian footfall to the town centre during the daytime;

c)    whether the proposal is compatible with a retail area in that it includes an active shopfront and is immediately accessible by the public from the front;

d)   the accumulation of non-A1 uses in parts of the frontage, which would significantly erode the retail function of the frontage;

e)    the loss of a large or anchor A1 retail unit

Within the Secondary Shopping Frontage, proposals for all main town centre uses will be permitted, subject to the proposal maintaining or enhancing the centre’s vitality and viability by attracting pedestrian activity and footfall to the town centre.

The Council will support proposals to bring underused upper floors back into beneficial use, including residential and office use.

Residential development will not be permitted on the ground floor within the Primary and Secondary Shopping Frontages.

 

Amend boundary of primary shopping area (PSA) to include the proposed extension to the PSA. Replace Map (EMP7 Shopping Frontages in Ashford Town Centre) at Chapter 7 with the following:

(Red = Primary Shopping Area; Blue = Primary Frontage; Yellow = Secondary Frontage)