Is Retail The Next Big Thing In Planning?
Statistics show that planning applications for new retail premises have fallen to an eight-year low amid continued growth of e-commerce, a new study shows.
There were 6,525 applications in England in the year to March, almost half the number in 2008/09 and down by 11% on 2014/15, said Lendy.
Let’s face it – the High Street and the retail environment has changed a huge amount in the last few years despite planning policies to protect it. The Town where I live has a very poor quality High Street as a result of some of the best out of town shopping in the area.
A combination of an increased online presence for major retailers and out of town retail shopping centres (both with lower over heads) becomes a common sense move for a lot of larger retailers.
Retail planning policies remain one of the more complicated areas of planning law. A sequential test must be applied (to identify preferable sites for a development within the town centre first). If the sequential test points to a development needing to be undertaken outside of the town centre (often due to size constraints) an impact test must also be undertaken in a bid to stop the decline. You can read the governments guidelines here.
In my time advising planning committees in-house I have heard too many committee members look to turn their back on these national policies either because the policies are simply too complex or because the lure of another big name brand to their town is too great.
It remains, as I have advised those committees, a highly contentious area, not least because the complainant is likely to be a rival supermarket whose competing site is then turned down.
The Forest of Dean District Council have been in the High Court for getting retail policies very wrong in the last week. You can read the judgement in full here.
Part of the Courts reasoning for the Councils approval being quashed is a failure to consistently apply retail impact or town centre first policies.
If you are promoting a retail site, no matter how small or large, or acting for an LPA in determining a retail site early legal advice is key.