Local Plan to 2030 - Publication Draft

SECTION B - EMPLOYMENT AND THE LOCAL ECONOMY

5.128 Providing for employment and the local economy is a critical part of the overall strategy set out in this Local Plan. The strategic approach to employment delivery has been set out in policies SP3 and SP4. The following sections support the approach and includes detailed policies for the consideration of proposals for new employment uses in the towns, villages, and rural areas, as well as those which result in the loss of employment premises.

5.129 The development of the town centre is an integral part of the economic strategy of this Plan, as set out in Policy SP5. This section also includes detailed policies in relation to retail, leisure and other town centre uses. The NPPF requires local authorities to define the extent of town centres and primary shopping areas, based upon a clear definition of primary and secondary frontages and to set policies making it clear what uses will be permitted. This section also covers issues in relation to the sequential test for town centre development, as well as supporting and protecting local and village service centres.

 

New employment uses

5.130 The provision of new employment space is critical to the delivery of employment and jobs in the Borough. Policy SP3 sets out the strategic approach to the delivery of employment and identifies the strategic sites which are allocated for employment purposes. Other specific sites for employment development are identified with site policies in this Plan.

5.131 There are also other existing employment sites including those identified in the Employment Land Review 2016, which have not been specifically allocated, but which may provide potential for redevelopment, enhancement and reconfiguration. There may also be opportunities for employment development which have not been specifically identified and are not located in existing established employment locations.

5.132 It is important that new employment development occurs in locations which provide suitable access to the local road network, and can also be accessed by a range of means of transport. The following policy seeks to support such proposals, provided they are in sustainable locations, create additional employment and do not have any other adverse impacts. It is essential that appropriate provision is made to access the site and that sufficient car parking is provided.

5.133 The NPPF makes it clear that planning policies should support economic growth in rural areas and the Council’s Rural Economic Assessment 2014 concluded that the current policy approach has been successful in delivering substantial rural employment opportunities. The study indicated that it could be possible to allocate additional sites but that a continuation of the current flexible policy approach that enables the market to determine the optimum location of additional employment space on an ad hoc basis regulated by planning generic policies. Hence, a suite of criteria based policies for new employment space provision, retention of employment space and extension of employment premises, provides a flexible and responsive approach to the delivery of appropriately-scaled employment opportunities in the rural areas.

5.134 New employment development should be provided at a scale that is appropriate to the existing settlement, without detriment to its amenity, character or setting. All new development should be of good design as required by Policy SP6.

5.135 It is important that the rural road network that supports new development is suitable for the scale and type of vehicle movements associated with new employment proposals. For example, significant numbers of HGV movements are unlikely to be appropriate along quiet rural lanes or in historic environments. Similarly, developments that would generate large amounts of traffic per se may be better suited to more sustainable locations where alternative means of transport may be more readily available. 

Policy EMP1 – New employment uses

 Provision of new employment premises, and the redevelopment, enhancement and reconfiguration of existing employment premises will be permitted within or adjoining the built-up confines of Ashford, Tenterden and the rural settlements, provided that:

  1. the character and appearance of the settlement or surrounding landscape is not damaged significantly by the form of development proposed by virtue of its layout, building design and scale, the level or type of activity it generates, and the functional and visual relationship it has with adjoining uses;
  2. there would be no significant impact on the amenities of any neighbouring residential occupiers;
  3. appropriate provision can be made for parking and access; and
  4. any impact upon the local road network can be mitigated. In the rural settlements, it must be demonstrated that the development will not generate a type or amount of traffic that would be inappropriate to the rural road network that serves it.

 

Loss or redevelopment of Employment Sites and Premises

5.136 The Council acknowledges that the changes that have been made to permitted development rights have meant that some buildings can be converted from a commercial use without the need for planning permission. Nevertheless there is still a requirement to retain, where possible, existing employment generating uses and to maintain the existing policy approach that has been in place for some time.  

5.137 The NPPF stresses the importance of identifying a range of sites to facilitate a broad range of economic development, including mixed use development. The council believes it is necessary to make specific policy provision for the retention of the existing stock of employment premises in the town to complement the strategy of identifying areas for employment development.

5.138 With Ashford already home to approximately 53,700 jobs (BRES 2014), an important aspect of achieving the growth in jobs within the town will be the facilitation of growth in existing companies alongside new investment. The safeguarding of existing employment sites (B1-B8) within the urban area is important to retain a good supply and range of units in size, type and cost to enable local companies to continue to prosper. Smaller sites and units continue to be the most vulnerable premises to competition from higher value land uses that do not create employment for the area.

5.139 The Employment Land Review 2016 includes an assessment of existing employment estates in the Borough.

5.140 In a few exceptional circumstances, the continuation of an employment use on a site may ne inappropriate by virtue of, for example, an impact on the residential amenity of neighbouring occupiers, or an unsafe vehicular access. However, this judgement should be based upon the impact of a range of potential employment generating uses on the site and not solely that of the previous or most recent operations at the site.  

5.141 Otherwise, for proposals involving the loss of employment floorspace, either an equivalent amount of floorspace must be provided at a suitable site elsewhere in the Ashford urban area, or it will be necessary for developers to provide robust evidence that the premises have been markets unsuccessfully for a substantial period of time on reasonable terms. Whilst each proposal will need to be treated on its own merits with the context of the prevailing market conditions, as a guide, appropriate marketing for less than one year is unlikely to be considered sufficient. Evidence should be provided that the terms compare with other similar premises and locations being let or sold for employment uses within the local area. The extent of the marketing carried out will be an important factor in the weight given to the evidence.

5.142 In addition to marketing the site, developers will need to have carried out a viability assessment of the redevelopment potential of the site for any other types of suitable employment generating uses. These uses might include, for example, trade counter uses, motor dealerships, education and training facilities, or small scale leisure facilities not suitable for town centre locations. The viability assessment should consider not only the redevelopment of the site in the current market conditions, but also redevelopment of the site within the timescale of this Plan.

5.143 Where mixed use redevelopment proposals involving an element of residential development are proposed on an existing employment site, these will only be acceptable if they retain at least the equivalent amount of employment floorspace within the redevelopment scheme as was available on the existing site or otherwise meet one of the criteria in Policy EMP2 below.

Loss or Redevelopment of employment sites and premises in the rural area

5.144 Whilst there is a considerable supply of employment space in the rural areas, much of this tends to be in relatively remote locations and opportunities in and around the villages are generally limited. Whilst it is important to retain existing employment sites, a balance may need to be struck between the viability of the existing employment space and the continuing need for employment in the local area.

5.145 It is desirable to enable jobs to be provided locally to cater for the needs of residents in the Borough's rural areas and to avoid unsustainable patterns of commuting. Hence, in general, proposals for the loss of existing employment sites in or adjoining the more sustainable rural settlements will not be supported. However, the Council recognises that there may be two circumstances where a different approach can be justified.

5.146 As a main objective of the Council's policy is to retain local job opportunities, the replacement of an employment use with new employment space elsewhere that is of the same size or larger may be an acceptable mitigation to the loss of an employment site. However, in order to retain the link between the employment use and local residents, it is likely that only employment uses that are relocated within or adjacent to their existing rural settlement or the nearest rural service centre will be acceptable and only if it can be demonstrated that development of the selected site will not have a detrimental impact on any existing uses, the quality of the landscape or the character of the area. This will also help to deliver a more sustainable form of development by limiting the need to travel longer distances to employment locations.

5.147 When considering an application for the loss of an employment site, an assessment will need to be made as to the viability of the existing use or an alternative employment use. In order to demonstrate that a site is no longer viable for an employment use, the application must be supported by robust evidence that the premises have been marketed unsuccessfully for both the existing use and any alternative suitable employment use for a period of at least 6 months on terms that should compare with other similar premises and locations being sold or let for employment purposes. The extent of any marketing carried out and the prevailing market conditions will also be material considerations in the Council's assessment of viability evidence.

 

Policy EMP2 - Loss or redevelopment of Employment Sites and Premises

 

In the Ashford urban area:

Proposals for the loss or redevelopment of existing employment sites or premises (outside the town centre) will not be permitted unless at least one of the following criteria applies:

  1. The site is no longer appropriate for the continuation of the previous or any other employment use in terms of its serious impact on the neighbouring occupiers or environment; or,
  2. It has been shown that the unit has remained unlet or for sale for a substantial period for all appropriate types of B class employment uses, despite genuine and sustained attempts to let or sell it on reasonable terms, and furthermore, that it will not be viable to redevelop the site for any appropriate types of alternative employment use within the Plan period; or,
  3. The premises are replaced with similar facilities within the existing site or elsewhere in the Ashford urban area, providing at least the overall amount of developable B class employment floorspace that would be lost to redevelopment.

In the rural area:

Proposals for the loss or redevelopment of existing employment sites or premises in Tenterden or the villages listed in Policy HOU3 will not be permitted, unless; 

  1. they are replaced with the same-sized or larger sites or premises within or adjoining the same rural settlement, or at the nearest rural service centre,or,
  2. It has been shown that the unit has remained unlet or for sale for a substantial period for all appropriate types of B class employment uses, despite genuine and sustained attempts to let or sell it on reasonable terms, and furthermore, that it will not be viable to redevelop the site for any appropriate types of alternative employment use within the Plan period.

Extensions to employment premises in the rural area

Extensions to Employment Premises in the Rural Area

5.148 The NPPF indicates that Plans should support the sustainable growth and expansion of all types of business and enterprise in rural areas and in line with the conclusions of the Rural Economic Assessment 2014, the Council will, in principle, encourage and support proposals for extensions to existing employment sites within or adjacent to Tenterden and other rural settlements. Proposals for extensions to existing employment premises in the countryside will particularly need to demonstrate that they would not have a detrimental impact on the character of the landscape. In both cases, extensions to existing employment sites should demonstrate that they will have no individual and cumulative impact on the rural environment, either visually or in terms of traffic and overall activity levels that will be generated.

5.149 In exceptional cases, where a business is located as part of a well-established collection of industrial or business premises, and is accommodated in a converted building whose character would be unacceptably affected by a physical extension, new floorspace may be accommodated in a new freestanding building that is designed and sited so as not to compromise the character of the existing building or group of buildings or wider landscape.

 

Policy EMP3 - Extensions to Employment Premises in the Rural Area

Proposals to extend existing employment premises in the rural areas will be permitted, provided that the following criteria are met:-

  1. the development can be integrated sensitively into its context, respecting the character of the landscape, existing historic and or architecturally important buildings and sites of biodiversity value;
  2. the proposal does not involve an extension to a previously converted building where that building has character that would be seriously affected;
  3. there would be no significant impact on the amenities of any neighbouring residential occupiers; and,
  4. it can be demonstrated that the development will not generate a type or amount of traffic that would be inappropriate to the rural road network that serves it.

Conversion of rural buildings to non-residential uses

5.150 Many agricultural and other rural buildings may no longer be suitable for their original purpose or be surplus to requirements as farming practices change. Both individual and groups of rural buildings can play a valuable role in creating the character of the countryside in a positive way.

5.151 The NPPF supports the conversion of rural buildings to support sustainable growth and expansion of all types of business and enterprise in rural areas. The Council supports this approach in principle as this stock of buildings can provide a useful and viable means of enabling the local rural economy to evolve and diversify without requiring new buildings to be developed in sensitive rural locations. It is acknowledged that recent changes to permitted development rights mean that in some cases the change of use of agricultural buildings does not require planning permission.

5.152 Not all buildings in the rural areas are suitable for conversion because of their design for a particular purpose and / or their condition or location. Buildings must be realistically capable of conversion from their existing state and not require complete or substantial reconstruction. If this issue is in doubt, applicants must be able to produce adequate supporting information, usually a survey report and associated drawings, to illustrate the existing condition of the building.

5.153 Where a rural building is proposed to be converted for employment, non-residential tourism (i.e attractions), leisure or community related purposes, the Council will normally be supportive of such schemes, particularly where they are located adjacent to Tenterden or another rural settlement. However, for this to be the case, the building to be converted must be of a permanent and substantial construction. It will also be important to consider the specific impacts of the proposal in respect of the proposed use(s). For example, in locations not within or adjacent to existing settlements, the scale and nature of the use proposed in terms of its floorspace and consequential potential trip generation should be limited according to the suitability of the local rural road network that serves the site, taking account of the nature of the vehicle movements that would result. In locations adjacent to settlements, a greater trip generation potential may be acceptable subject to the quality of the surrounding road network and any impacts on local residential amenities.

5.154 The Council has adopted supplementary planning guidance on the re-use of agricultural buildings which gives clear guidance on the design of building conversions. This guidance will continue to apply to proposals for conversions to ensure that the integrity and character of the existing building is retained where applicable. When planning permission is granted for a conversion, the Council will also usually remove permitted development rights to extend the building or erect additional buildings within its curtilage. Without this control, the architectural and historic integrity of converted buildings and the rural character of the countryside could be damaged.

Policy EMP4 - Conversions of rural buildings to non-residential uses

 

Proposals to convert rural buildings to employment, non-residential tourism, leisure or community-related uses will be permitted subject to meeting all of the following criteria:-

  1. the building does not require complete or substantial reconstruction;
  2. the building is of a permanent and substantial construction;
  3. the building is to be converted in a way that preserves its integrity and character;
  4. it can be demonstrated that the development will not generate a type or amount of traffic that would be inappropriate to the rural road network that serves it; and,
  5. the scale and nature of the proposed use would not result in any significant adverse impacts on the character of any settlement or buildings, the surrounding landscape, its biodiversity value or the amenities of local residents.

New employment premises in the countryside

5.155 New employment sites (i.e. not conversions) in the countryside will not be permitted unless exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated to set aside the normal presumption against such developments. Such circumstances may include the functional need for a countryside location, such as the processing of local agricultural products. New employment sites in the countryside will need to have regard to the need to protect countryside sites with specific, landscape, biodiversity or historic qualities.

 

Policy EMP5 - New employment premises in the countryside

Proposals for employment development on new sites in the countryside will not be permitted unless the following criteria can be met:-

  1. it is essential to be located in the countryside;
  2. development can be integrated sensitively into its context respecting the character of any important existing buildings, the landscape setting and sites of biodiversity value;
  3. there would be no significant impact on the amenities of any neighbouring residential occupiers; and,
  4. it can be demonstrated that the development will not generate a type or amount of traffic that would be inappropriate to the rural road network that serves it.

 

 

Promoting of Fibre To The Premise (FTTP)

5.156 The e-technology sector is undergoing major changes and the Government - through Broadband Delivery UK[1] - is supporting investment to:

  • provide superfast broadband coverage to 90% of the UK by early 2016 and 95% by December 2017,
  • provide access to basic broadband (2Mbps) for all from December 2015,
  • explore options to provide superfast coverage to the hardest to reach parts of the UK.

5.157 At the local level, the availability, reliability and speed of broadband provision is now a key consideration for house buyers and many view it as essential as the standard utilities. Similarly, it is also a key concern for the business sector.  

5.158 Planning policy can play a role in helping to achieve the transformation in broadband. The NPPF clearly recognises this and supports the delivery of advanced, high quality communications infrastructure and the expansion of high speed broadband where possible.

5.159 Ashford has long been ahead of the national agenda in this regard. In 2008, the Core Strategy took proactive steps to prioritise communications infrastructure by ensuring that duct space was provided for fibre cabling on each new development in the urban area. In the 8 years since this policy approach was developed the fibre network in Ashford has received significant private and public sector investment and the fibre footprint in the Ashford borough has spread significantly. All of Ashford’s exchanges are now fibre enabled.

5.160 The policy below builds upon this pioneering approach and challenges the market yet further to require fibre to the premise (FTTP) for all new developments, wherever practical. In doing so, the approach underpins one of the key principles of this Local Plan with regard to the utilisation, enhancement and expansion of existing infrastructure wherever possible.

5.161 FTTP is recognised by the Government and European Commission as a ‘Next Generation Access (NGA) technology[2] and have prioritised investment accordingly. While superfast speeds can be achieved on current generation copper networks it is widely accepted that NGA technologies should be prioritised. By seeking FTTP, the Council are aiming to provide a futureproof solution for broadband delivery within the Borough.

5.162 Adopting this approach will prevent the need for fibre retrofitting programmes in the future which has significant cost implications and often results in attaching fibre to existing copper networks resulting in a less than optimum solution when compared to new fibre networks being delivered.

5.163 In the urban area, where the fibre network now exists, the cost of installing FTTP in new developments is considered to be relatively small particularly during the build phase of the development. Any costs (above BCIS assumptions) must also be balanced with increased sales values that are likely to be achieved on account of fast and reliable broadband speeds being available.

5.164 In the rural parts of the borough, there has been significant investment in rural broadband which has resulted in the fibre network stretching further into the rural area than ever before. As in the urban area this creates an opportunity for developments to utilise this asset to deliver FTTP in new developments.

5.165 However, the Council recognise that there are more challenges in terms of the viability of provision in the rural area and sometimes the ability to connect to the network is more difficult than in the urban area. With this in mind, the policy below is targeted towards schemes promoting 10 residential units or more and proposals that will deliver reasonably sized, or larger, employment uses.  

5.166 Schemes that fall below these thresholds will be encouraged to deliver FTTP wherever practical to try to ensure that the Borough’s fibre network is delivered to its maximum capacity.

5.167 By implementing this policy approach, the Council is seeking to ensure that future developments remain at the forefront of advances in broadband technology, allowing Ashford to be a market leader and remain a highly attractive location for businesses and residents alike. This aspiration is a central component of the Council’s Five Year Corporate Plan.

5.168 However, in order to be consistent with the provisions in the NPPF, the Council recognise that there may be schemes that come forward which cannot fulfil the policy requirements as stipulated below. In such cases, evidence will be needed from the applicant to demonstrate that a departure from policy is justified. Such evidence could include (but is not limited to) issues of viability, the ability to dig the appropriate physical trench and proximity to the nearest breakout point on the fibre network.

5.169 Where a FTTP solution is not deemed possible (and this position is accepted by the Council) provision of technologies capable of providing speeds in excess of 24Mbps should be delivered wherever practical.

Policy EMP6 - Promotion of Fibre to the Premises (FTTP)

All residential and employment developments within the Ashford urban area, including the site allocations promoted in this Plan which adjoin Ashford, will enable FTTP. In the rural area, all residential developments over 10 dwellings and reasonably sized employment proposals shall enable FTTP.

For schemes under these thresholds the Council’s expectation is that provision for FTTP will be achieved, where practical.  

Where it can be demonstrated that fibre to the premise is not practical due to special circumstances, then non Next Generation Access technologies that can provide speeds in excess of 24Mbps should be delivered wherever practical.

5.170  [1] The government department charged with delivering superfast broadband

5.171 [2] ‘Next Generation Access Networks: wired access networks which consist wholly or in part of optical elements and which are capable of delivering broadband access services with enhanced characteristics (such as higher throughput) as compared to those provided over already existing copper networks.’ Commission Recommendation 2010/572/EU of 20 September 2010 on regulated access to Next Generation Access Networks (NGA)

Retail, Leisure and Tourism

Ashford Town Centre Primary and Secondary Frontages

5.172 The NPPF requires local planning authorities to define a network and hierarchy of centres that is resilient to anticipated future economic changes.

5.173 The existing hierarchy of centres in Ashford Borough is set out below. It is proposed that through this Plan the existing hierarchy will be supported and maintained.

5.174 Ashford Town Centre – primary regional centre that serves the Borough’s administrative area. As the largest service centre within the Borough it plays a key role as the commercial centre for the town and the surrounding rural area. It attracts visitors from across the Borough and beyond.

5.175 Tenterden Town Centre – secondary retail centre that offers a smaller range of shops and services to Ashford, but nonetheless attracts visitors from a wider area.

5.176 Wye, Charing and Hamstreet – village/local service centres, which perform the role of serving the day-to-day service top up shopping and leisure needs for local catchment areas

5.177 Local Centres – there are a number of other local centres, mainly rural village centres, across Ashford, which generally provide more limited day to day top-up shopping provision.

5.178 Ashford Town Centre also fits within a wider retail hierarchy, and faces strong competition from centres outside of the Borough, particularly Folkestone and Canterbury. This reflects the more limited range, choice and overall quality of the town centre’s comparison goods offer compared to the competing centres. One of the main challenges for Ashford town centre will be to maintain and strengthen its market share in the face of competition from out of centre facilities, larger neighbouring centres and the internet.

5.179 National Planning Policy requires Local Planning Authorities to define the extent of town centres and primary shopping areas, based upon a clear definition of primary and secondary frontages in designated centres, and to set clear policies that make clear which uses will be permitted in such locations.

5.180 The primary and secondary frontages have been defined following an assessment of the characteristics of Ashford Town centre, including an audit of existing uses within the town centre, taking into consideration recent trends and committed and future development proposals.

5.181 Ashford is focused around a compact core. The primary shopping street of the town centre is the traditional High Street, where retail uses are focused, and around 80% of existing units are occupied in retail use. The two shopping centres of Park Mall and Country Square shopping centres front directly on to the High Street, to the north and south respectively. These centres are dominated by A1 retail uses, and County Square is the main focus for major national multiples and Class A1 retailers in the town centre.

5.182 Secondary areas of Ashford Town Centre, which have a lower proportion of A1 uses, and are dominated more by service uses such as A2 uses, include the western end of New Rents, Bank Street and North Street.

5.183 With planning permission being granted for the cinema and restaurants 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 it will become part of the Primary Shopping Area, as this is shown by an extension to the existing PSA on the map in Policy EMP7.

5.184 In the past, frontage polices 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.

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 Shopping Frontage would be harmful to the economic health of the town centre. Proposals for change of use to residential 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.

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, development falling within Use Classes A1, A2, A3, A4 and A5 will be permitted.

Residential development will not be permitted on the ground floor within the Primary Shopping Frontage.

Within the Secondary Shopping Frontage, proposals for all town centre uses, including residential, will be permitted.

Tenterden Town Centre Primary and Secondary Frontages

5.189 Tenterden town centre is characterised by an attractive historic environment, and serves a sizeable rural catchment. Its shopping, leisure and service provision is focused around its historic linear high street, which has approximately 70 retail, leisure and service outlets. Its offer is distinctly different to Ashford and comprises a good mix of independent and specialist businesses trading alongside some high street brands. The good choice of high quality specialist shops in the town reflects its important role as a tourist and visitor destination, as well as serving its local population.

5.190 Tenterden also benefits from two food stores, which both help to underpin Tenterden's vitality and viability, by generating linked trips, footfall and expenditure to other shops and businesses in the town centre. It is therefore important for the role, attraction and trading performance of these two key anchor stores to be maintained.

5.191 The main shopping area is located along the traditional high street, on both sides of the road. It runs from Bridewell Lane to Recreation Ground Road on the south side of the High Street, and from Station Road to East Cross on the north side.

5.192 Previous policies for Tenterden Town Centre, have aimed to maintain a high concentration of A1 uses, by restricting proposals that would result in more than 35% of the length of particular primary frontages becoming non-A1 uses. Whilst the current mix of uses within the centre makes for a well functioning and vibrant centre, given the recent extensions to permitted development rights, as with Ashford town centre, it is not considered appropriate to restrict uses by such a threshold, and in any event, this would have no practical effect.

5.193 No Secondary Shopping Frontage is proposed for Tenterden Town Centre. Due to the particular characteristics of the town centre, the Primary Shopping Frontage already contains the full range of town centre uses. 

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

 

Policy EMP8 - Primary Shopping Frontage in Tenterden Town Centre

Primary Shopping Frontages and the Primary Shopping Area are defined for Tenterden Town Centre as set out on the Policies Map and extract above.

Within the Primary Shopping Frontage, all town centre uses will be permitted, with the exception of residential, which will not be permitted on the ground floor of any unit. 

 

 

Sequential Assessment and Impact Test

5.195 Both Ashford and Tenterden Town Centres are potentially vulnerable to increasing competition from out-of-centre retailing and the growth of internet shopping. There is a concern that existing retailers in the centres, particularly Ashford, could choose to take space in larger more modern units in out-of-centre locations. The loss of existing major retailers in the town centre would be significantly detrimental to the vitablity and viability of the town centre. The provision of additional out-of-centre retail has the potential to have significant negative impacts on the town centres, further reducing the towns' market shares.

5.196 Local planning authorities are required by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to apply a sequential test to planning applications for main town centre uses that are not in an existing centre and are not in accordance with an up to date Local Plan. The NPPF requires proposals for main town centre uses to be located in town centres, or if no suitable sites are available, then in edge of centre locations. Only if no sites are available, should out of centre sites be considered. When considering edge of centre and out of centre proposals, preference should be given to accessible sites that are well connected to the town centre. Applicants and local planning authorities should demonstrate flexibility on issues such as format and scale.

5.197 The NPPF requires local plans to set policies for the consideration of proposals which cannot be accommodated in or adjacent to town centres. This policy sets out two key tests, sequential and impact test, which proposals for town centre development, located outside of the Primary Shopping Area (PSA), as defined in Policy EMP7 and EMP8, will need to meet in order to be considered acceptable.

5.198 The NPPF defines edge of centre locations as, for retail purposes, a location that is well connected and within 300 metres of the primary shopping area. For all other main town centres uses, a location within 300 metres of a town centre boundary. For office development, this includes locations outside of the town centre but within 500 metres of a public transport interchange. It states that local circumstances should be taken into account when determining whether a site falls within the definition of edge of centre.

5.199 For the avoidance of doubt Policy SP4 does not over-ride the need for development proposals in edge of centre locations to accord with the following policy.

5.200 Proposals for development outside of the PSA will be required to demonstrate, by carrying out a Sequential Assessment, that there are no sites located within a more central location that would be suitable for the proposed development. Applicants will be required to demonstrate flexibility in respect of the format and scale of the proposed development.

5.201 The National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG) provides advice in setting locally appropriate thresholds for impact assessments. The Retail and Leisure Needs Assessment concludes that impact assessments will be required for proposals for retail, leisure and office development, which are greater than 500 sqm.

5.202 The scope of the Sequential Test and Retail Impact Assessments which are required to be submitted in support of planning applications should be discussed and agreed between the applicants and the Council at an early stage in the pre-application process. The level of detail included within the assessments should be proportionate to the scale and type of retail floorspace proposed and shall be determined on a case by case basis. National Planning Practice Guidance sets out detailed requirements for carrying out such assessments.

5.203 The following policy sets out the requirements for consideration of applications for main town centre uses that are not proposed in Ashford or Tenterden Primary Shopping Areas and are not in accordance with other site allocations within this Local Plan.

Policy EMP9 - Sequential Assessment and Impact Test

Proposals for town centre development which are not located in the Primary Shopping Areas of Ashford or Tenterden Town Centres (as defined in Policy EMP7 and EMP8 and set out on the Policies Map), and are not in accordance with other site allocation policies in this plan, will only be permitted if all of the following criteria can be met:

  1. A sequential assessment has been carried out to demonstrate that no suitable sites are available in more central locations.
  2. The site is accessible by a range of means of transport, and is well connected to the town centre, including by public transport, bicycle and foot.
  3. The proposal, either by itself, or in combination with other committed development proposals, will not harm significantly the vitality and viability of the relevant centre, or any significant negative impact upon the town centres can be adequately mitigated. Proposals for retail, leisure and office development which are greater than 500 sqm, will be required to carry out an impact assessment.  

Local and Village Centres

5.204 Local centres in the towns and villages play an important role in providing for local shopping needs, especially for convenience goods, and other local services. They help reduce the need to travel. They also provide an essential service for those with restricted mobility and are often a focal point for the community.

5.205 Within the built-up area of Ashford, there are a number of local centres which provide such services to local residents. Many of the villages in the Borough have shops which serve the village community and in the case of the larger villages, such as Wye and Charing, serve the surrounding smaller villages and hamlets as well.

5.206 The Council would like to see as broad a range of local shops and services as possible, including some non-A1 uses such as banks, take-away restaurants and public houses. The Council aims to resist the loss of shops and services and to preserve the character of the local centres, especially the retention of key units so that they remain compact centres, although the effects of increased permitted development rights on changes of use should be acknowledged.

5.207 Areas of new residential development in Ashford have in the past been required to make provision of local shops to meet the needs of the new community. Where new local centres are required to support new development in this plan, this is will set out in the site policy.

5.208 The following policy seeks to maintain and enhance the provision of local centres in the built-up areas of the Borough. 

Policy EMP10 - Local and Village Centres

In local centres and villages, planning permission will be granted for additional shopping and service provision, where proposals meet a local need, and are of a scale appropriate to the particular centre.

Proposals that result in the loss of shops and services will only be permitted where it can be demonstrated that:

  1. there is alternative provision for a similar use within reasonable walking distance (300 metres); or,
  2. the unit is no longer viable for that purpose, or an alternative local service, and that it has remained unlet for a substantial period of time, despite genuine and sustained attempts to let it on reasonable terms[1]
1. What constitutes a 'substantial period of time' and 'reasonable terms' will depend on prevailing market conditions, but as a guidance less than six months is likely to be inappropriate and the terms on offer should compare with other similar premises and locations being let or sold for retail use. The extent of marketing carried out will be an important factor. [back]

Tourism

5.209 Tourism is a term covering a wide range of activities, including travel and visits for business, professional and domestic purposes, as well as for holidays and recreation. Tourism helps to create and support employment; generate local income; and also to enhance the image of an area as a place to live, work and invest.

5.210 Ashford's Corporate Plan (2015- 2020) identifies one of its key priorities is to have a borough that 'recognises the value of tourism and the benefits its brings to our towns, villages and the borough as a whole.

5.211 The council's tourism review revealed that the Ashford Borough in relation to other Kent districts continued to perform well in terms of visitor numbers, spend and tourism related employment.

5.212 Trends in tourism constantly change, but if new tourism development is to have a positive overall impact, it needs to be properly managed and planned for. More ‘sustainable tourism’ can only be achieved by making sure that new initiatives respect the character of an area and major development is located where there is public transport access. Poorly controlled tourist development can damage the character of the environment that attracts tourists in the first instance.

5.213 Ashford has the benefit of a good accommodation base in terms of range and quality of bed spaces and is ideally located to attract both UK and overseas visitors. The proximity of the Channel Tunnel and the location of the International Station, with its high speed links to the continent and London, means that Ashford is uniquely placed to benefit from an increase in overseas and domestic visitors. The fact that Canterbury, Rochester and major attractions such as Leeds Castle and Sissinghurst Gardens are nearby also mean that Ashford is a natural centre for tourism. Ashford’s unspoilt ‘Garden of England’ countryside with its picturesque villages, large number of listed buildings, its small, but important range of museums, its quality attractions and the ‘honeypot’ of Tenterden, add to the appeal. The urban areas of Ashford and Tenterden Towns, as well as the large areas of surrounding countryside make a valuable contribution to the current tourism offer in the Borough, as well as providing for future opportunities to expand and enhance the offer.

5.214 There are a number of planned tourism facilities proposed in Ashford Borough, which will continue to improve Ashford's attraction as a tourist destination. For example, planning permission has been granted for an International Model Railway Exhibition Centre, and Chapel Down Winery is planning to open a state of the art brewery and visitor attraction on Victoria Road in Ashford.

5.215 The following policy seeks to retain existing facilities and support the development of new tourism facilities in appropriate locations.

Policy EMP11 -Tourism

The Council will support the retention of existing tourism facilities and encourage sustainable growth of tourism through the provision of a wide variety of new facilities.

Proposals for new hotel and B&B development will be permitted in locations that are accessible by a choice of modes of transport and will be particularly encouraged in the Ashford urban area.

Proposals for conference and exhibition facilities in Ashford town centre, potentially in association with a hotel development, will be supported subject to other Local Plan policies.