9. Retailing and Town Centres
9.1 Retailing and the ability of communities to have access to an appropriate network of sustainable destinations for their shopping needs is an important factor in building a successful and well balanced district.
9.2 Our town centres are very much at the heart of our communities, providing key destinations for shopping, services, employment and leisure. Their future success and attractiveness can play an important part in ensuring a strong economy, meeting the social and economic needs of the community, supporting more sustainable patterns of development, and reducing the need to travel.
9.3 Warwick District has three main town centres in Leamington Spa, Warwick and Kenilworth which provide the focus for retailing activity and other town centre uses. Outside of these town centres there are a number of important local centres within the urban area, each performing a different complementary function for both the local population and visitors to the area.
9.4 Leamington is the largest of the district’s town centres and is acknowledged as an important sub-regional shopping destination. Leamington contains a large number of major outlets ranging from a department store to representation from many high street chains as well as local and independent specialist shops. The town centres retail attractions are complemented by the location of major offices, civic buildings, leisure and hotel uses and residential properties that all benefit from the towns intrinsic, attractive Regency character. Leamington town centre also includes the smaller Old Town shopping area south of the River Leam. This area contains a range of specialist shops, many of which are independent, together with a diverse range of restaurants.
9.5 The District’s other two main town centres are much smaller in size than Leamington and therefore contain a more limited size range of shops and services. Warwick Town centre is heavily influenced by the mediaeval street patterns and in retail terms fulfils the dual role of being a local shopping centre for the people of Warwick whilst also serving a tourist market attracted in a large part and influenced by its proximity to Warwick Castle.
9.6 Kenilworth town centre is smaller still and offers a range of local shops for the people of Kenilworth, including being a main food shopping destination. Kenilworth has seen recent improvements to its retail offer including the addition of a Waitrose store which has helped attract more visitors to this centre. Kenilworth town centre also offers a good range of quality restaurants.
9.7 Notwithstanding the importance of the district’s three main centres there are also a number of major out of centre retail outlets that add to the district’s retail offer. The main ones are Leamington Shopping Park (previously known as The Shires Retail Park), the adjacent Shires Gate and the Retail Warehouses on Myton Road, Leamington. As well as these clusters of retail outlets there are other significant out of centre retail stores across the district that include Homebase, (Emscote Road, Warwick), Asda, (Chesterton Drive, Sydenham), Tesco, (Emscote Road, Warwick) and Lidl, (Myton Road, Warwick). It should be noted that there is shortly to be an addition to the above list of out-of -centre stores with work to deliver a new Morrisons supermarket on the former Ford Foundry site underway.
9.8 Warwick District also has a large number of smaller local centres, shopping parades and isolated shops. These include small clusters of shops in historic parts of the towns (e.g. Coten End, Warwick and High Street, Kenilworth) and shopping parades developed as the towns have expanded (e.g. Crown Way, Lillington and Othello Avenue, Warwick Gates). These local centres and the individual town shops provide an important role in providing access to shops and services within easy walking distance of many people.
9.9 A number of the district’s villages also contain local shops and services serving their local communities and in recent years a number of farm shops have become established, e.g. Hill Top Farm, Hunningham. The largest concentration of shops in the rural area is at Hatton Country World. This site has become a major tourist attraction in this part of the district and attracts people from a wide area as the shops operate alongside a restaurant and farm park as part of a wider visitor attraction.
9.10 The challenge facing the district will be to ensure that new retail requirements are delivered at the most appropriate locations and that the district’s town centres remain the focus for future retail and other main town centre uses in line with the sustainable development aspirations of the Local Plan. It is also important to maintain an appropriate range and balance of complementary retail opportunities at other locations within the urban context and in the rural villages.
Relevant Issue & Strategic Objectives
- The impact of the current recession on the local economy ;
- The need to maintain the economic strength of the town centres of Leamington Spa, Warwick and Kenilworth, and the threat to these from retail and leisure developments elsewhere;
- The desire to build prosperous communities by improving the economic performance of towns and local areas;
- The need to identify a sustainable level of retail growth to meet existing and future needs;
- The need to identify a network and hierarchy of centres to meet the needs of their catchment; and
- The need to identify a strategy for future management and growth of the town centres to meet future needs (including retail and other main town centre uses such as offices , leisure, culture and tourism and other uses defined in the NPPF Annex 2: Glossary)
9.11 Strategic Objectives: See in particular objective 3 as set out in paragraphs 4.13 to 4.15 above
PO9: Retailing & Town Centres
- Our Preferred Option is to incorporate retail and town centre policies to:
- Identify a clearly defined local retail hierarchy, and strategies for the district’s network of town and local centres (including rural shops);
- Apply the ‘town centres first’ message at the heart of Government retail policy advice that will be central to promoting the vitality and viability of the district’s town centres. Town centres will be the focus for retail development and the Council will plan positively for their growth and development in accordance with their particular role within the network of town and local centres;
- In accordance with the identified need/evidence within the retail study, support the addition of a major retail –led development scheme in Leamington Town Centre;
- Define the extent of town centres and primary shopping areas, based on a clear definition of primary and secondary retail frontages in designated centres, and set policies that make clear which uses will be permitted in such locations;
- Strongly resist out-of-centre retail development unless it can be proven that there will be no adverse impacts on other town/ local centres in the catchment area;
- Review the existing town centre opportunity sites to reconsider their potential regeneration potential;
- Provide a framework for more detailed area action plans to be prepared with the local community and businesses in those centres where significant change or conservation is needed. These plans will identify the distribution of uses, and their inter-relationships, including specific allocations to meet the need for new retail, leisure and office floorspace within the town centres.
- Protect rural shops and services, by allocating housing development in Category one villages and also by restricting the change of use of existing shops and services. This will help to support existing shops or may even lead to the creation of new outlets (see Policies for the Location of New Housing Preferred Options).
Justification for Preferred Option
National and other policy context
9.12 The latest national planning policy regarding retailing and town centres is set out within the NPPF (April 2012) and the accompanying Technical Guidance to the NPPF.
Ensuring the vitality of town centres
9.13 The NPPF underlines the importance of Town Centres saying that planning policies should be positive, promote competitive town centre environments and set out policies for the management and growth of centres over the plan period. In drawing up Local Plans, local planning authorities should:
- Recognise town centres as the heart of their communities and pursue policies to support their viability and vitality;
- Define a network and hierarchy of centres that is resilient to anticipated future economic changes;
- Define the extent of town centres and primary shopping areas, based on a clear definition of primary and secondary frontages in designated centres, and set policies that make clear which uses will be permitted in such locations;
- Promote competitive town centres that provide customer choice and a diverse retail offer and which reflect the individuality of town centres;
- Retain and enhance existing markets and, where appropriate, re-introduce or create new ones, ensuring that markets remain attractive and competitive;
- Allocate a range of suitable sites to meet the scale and type of retail, leisure, commercial, office, tourism, cultural, community and residential development needed in town centres. It is important that need for retail, leisure and office and other main town centre uses are met in full and are not compromised by limited site availability. Local Planning authorities should therefore undertake an assessment of the needs to expand town centres to ensure a sufficient supply of suitable sites;
- Allocate appropriate edge of centre sites for main town centre uses that are well connected to the town centre where suitable and viable town centre sites are not available. If sufficient edge of centre sites cannot be identified, set policies for meeting the identified needs in other accessible locations that are well connected to the town centre;
- Set policies for the consideration of proposals for main town centre uses which cannot be accommodated in or adjacent to town centres;
- Recognise that residential development can play an important role in ensuring the vitality of centres and set policies to encourage residential development on appropriate sites; and
- Where town centres are in decline, local planning authorities should plan positively for their future to encourage economic activity.
9.14 For wider retailing polices the NPPF sets out the following:
- Local planning authorities should 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. they should require applications for main town centre uses to be located in town centres, then in edge of centre locations and only if suitable sites are not 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.
- This sequential approach should not be applied to applications for small scale rural offices or other small scale rural development.
- When assessing applications for retail, leisure and office development outside of town centres, which are not in accordance with an up-to-date Local Plan, local planning authorities should require an impact assessment if the development is over a proportionate, locally set floorspace threshold (if there is no locally set threshold, the default threshold is 2,500 sq m). This should include an assessment of:
- The impact of the proposal on existing, committed and planned public and private investment in a centre or centres in the catchment area of the proposal: and
- The impact of the proposal on town centre vitality and viability, including local consumer choice and trade in the town centre and wider area, up to five years from the time the application is made. For major schemes where the full impact will not be realised in five years, the impact should also be assessed up to ten years from the time the application is made.
9.15 Where re an application fails to satisfy the sequential test or is likely to have significant adverse impact on one or more of the above factors, it should be refused.
9.16 It should be noted that in ‘Promoting healthy communities’ the NPPF states that Local Plans should deliver the social, recreational and cultural facilities and services the community needs and that this includes planning positively for the provision of community facilities including shops.
9.17 The NPPF also sets out a framework for ‘Supporting a prosperous rural economy’; within this it clearly states that Local Plans should promote the retention and development of local services and community facilities in villages, including local shops.
Warwick District Retail and Leisure Study (May 2009)
9.18 The Warwick District Retail Study(May 2009) has produced the following key findings that have informed the preferred options process with regard to retailing and town centres.
9.19 Leamington Spa is perceived as a relatively healthy town centre with its current retail offer being broadly in line with other high order centres in the UK. It has department store representation and a good range of national multiple retailers present. These all serve an important anchor function to the centre, because they continue to bring shoppers into the town centre. The vitality and viability of the centre is also underpinned by:
- The expansion, albeit small, in the quality and range of retailers in recent years (such as the introduction of Regent Court);
- The healthy list of retailers seeking representation in the centre;
- Steady prime Zone A rentals; and an environmentally attractive shopping environment.
9.20 However the retail study expresses concerns about:
- Leamington’s fall in the UK Venuescore (Town Centre) rankings;
- The loss of independent department store operator, Woodwards;
- The level of vacant outlets and floorspace;
- Decreasing pedestrian footfall; and
- Limited scale of substantial new development in the centre during the last two decades.
9.21 Leamington Spa’s retail performance and prospects cannot be divorced from those of competing centres. In this context the town centre competes at a sub-regional level with Coventry and Solihull, and with the regional centre of Birmingham. All of these centres have seen the implementation of major retail and leisure schemes, which has resulted in Leamington Spa losing its competitive edge due to the limited amount of investment in new retail facilities in the town centre.
9.22 The retail study states that Leamington (and the district) would benefit from further investment and an injection of new retailers in order to remain robust and competitive. In this context the study has agreed that a retail development centred on Chandos Street would have the potential to meet the need for an uplift in the quantum and quality of retailing in the heart of Leamington town centre.
9.23 Warwick town centre is considered to accommodate a good range of middle to upmarket independent and leisure service operators catering for shoppers and tourists alike. This is in contrast to Leamington which is predominantly governed by national multiple retailers selling mainstream fashion. In this way, it can be argued that these neighbouring shopping destinations complement each other.
9.24 Kenilworth is judged to be a healthy town centre catering for the local catchment and visitors alike and is performing well in the shopping hierarchy. Positive indicators include:
- a good range of national multiple retailers present;
- an increase in rental levels;
- environmentally attractive
- relatively low vacancy in the centre;
9.25 The centre’s profile and trading performance has been significantly enhanced by the new investment associated with the redevelopment of Talsiman Square, anchored by the Waitrose store. The existing shopping provision in the town centre has benefitted from the Talisman Square redevelopment that has generated additional footfall, spend and linked trips across the centre.
Future Retail Capacity Estimates for Warwick District
9.26 The retail study has also produced a strategic forecast of new comparison goods and convenience goods floorspace up to 2026. Utilising population forecasts that are commensurate with the overall levels of housing growth proposed over the local plan period, the retail study indicates that there is economic capacity for major comparison goods and commercial leisure floorspace over the short to medium term. There is also a limited identified quantitative capacity for convenience goods retailing, although this should not preclude any qualitative improvements to the existing convenience offer in existing centres and specifically Leamington Spa.
9.27 The retail study identifies proactively planning for new growth within the context of the districts town centres as the main challenge for future of retail and leisure development in this area. It states that if new development is not facilitated in existing town centres then the there will be increased pressure for new development from alternative sites in edge-of-centre and out-of-centre locations.
9.28 Planning proactively at the local level, and setting a range of strategic policies (as identified in the Council’s preferred option above) is the only way to underpin the government’s requirement to ensure the vitality of town centres in Warwick District.