This week’s focus on the Central Lincolnshire Local Plan draft consultation looks at the policies around shaping and protecting retail, city, town and other local centres.
Our town centres and high streets are facing substantial challenges from the shrinking ‘front facing’ retail sector which has been further worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vital and viable centres provide economic and social benefits, such as reducing social isolation and health inequalities. They are also areas of niche and independent retailing with distinctive historic retail premises which help to foster civic pride and promote local identity.
Central Lincolnshire is made up of three district authorities; a strategic planning partnership covering City of Lincoln and the North Kesteven and West Lindsey districts.
In September 2020 the Government introduced changes to the ‘Use Classes Order’ which brought together a range of ‘Commercial, Business and Service’ uses under one Use Class (E).
This change allows shops in town centres to change to other uses that are also suitable in town centres without the need for planning permission. With the exception of isolated village shops, which are exempt from this ability to change use without first seeking planning permission, this means that town centres should no longer be viewed as just ‘shopping centres’.
The policies relating to Retail, City, Town and Local Centres are based on a hierarchy made up of 4 tiers:
- Lincoln City Centre - Largest centre within Central Lincolnshire, having an extensive catchment and a sub-regional role, providing a wide range of town centre uses
- Town Centres - Centres providing a range of facilities and services for a wider catchment area within the main towns and market towns
- District Centres - Centres serving particular areas within the main settlements, typically including a range of services, restaurants, library and at least one supermarket
- Local and Village Centres - Centres that serve their locality, typically including a convenience store or a small supermarket and a limited range of other local shops and services such as pharmacy, sub-post office, newsagent, hot food takeaways
Development proposals for retail and/or other town centre uses will be directed to the Tier 1 to 4 centres identified in this policy. This will make sure development is appropriate in scale and nature to the size and function of the relevant centre.
As well as the general policy S34 which establishes the Network and Hierarchy of Centres, there is a further suite of policies which provide details in relation to specific locations.
- For the City of Lincoln Policy S35 sets out the uses and approaches to development that will help to maintain its role as a service centre for Lincolnshire, its regional draw as a tourist attractor, and generally to enhance its role as a destination.
- In West Lindsey, there is a policy for Gainsborough Town Centre S36 and a new policy specific to Market Rasen and Caistor Town Centres, Policy S38- both providing clarity for what development will be acceptable.
- In North Kesteven Policy S37 provides details for what development will be acceptable in Sleaford including specific locations within the town centre that will help to enhance its role.
More widely Policy S39 sets out a policy framework for what will be suitable in District, Local and Rural Centres to ensure they continue to fulfil their role as vital service centres for communities. This policy will be applied to 44 centres which are now proposed for designation on the policies map, the majority of which have not been specifically protected previously.
Cllr Rik Metcalfe, Leader of City of Lincoln Council welcomed the inclusion of the draft policies in the plan as they aim to protect town centres.
He said: “Lincoln has the largest urban centre in Central Lincolnshire and these policies will safeguard our historic buildings and ensure the centre can adapt to the current changes in the retail sector.
“This Local Plan also recognises the important role smaller centres play in the local community and as such Policy S39 has been developed to provide a specific framework for assessing development in these key areas. The policy seeks to support development which contributes to the vitality and diversity of these areas whilst also protecting public amenity.
“Whilst the full impact of the Government’s changes to the Use Classes Order has yet to be fully realised, it is hoped these more bespoke policies will provide some safeguards and ensure the longevity of these important hubs, which are at the heart of our communities, can build on the aim of the plan to maintain the vibrancy of each centre.”
You have until August 24 to have your say on the consultation – all documents and the response form can be accessed by following this link Local Plan consultation