Retail and Town Centre Policies

Our preferred policy approach to retail and town centres over the Plan period, and the justification for this, is set out below:

Strategic Policy 10: Quantity and Location of Retail Development

Quantity and Location of Retail Development

The District's town centres, local and village centres provide a focus for activity and community life providing shopping, leisure, employment, culture as well as other services. This is particularly the case for Dover, Deal and Sandwich town centres.

The Council is required to set out a network and hierarchy of shopping and service centres in the Local Plan. Identifying the existing hierarchy provides an understanding of the role and function of the District's centres and their interrelationship. A major factor in determining the role of the centres is the catchment which they serve. Canterbury is the pre-dominant centre in the wider sub region of East Kent. Dover's hierarchy of centres broadly accords with the settlement hierarchy (set out in Appendix 1) and is set out below:

Secondary Regional Centre - Dover Town Centre is positioned at the top of the retail hierarchy and performs the role of a Secondary Regional Centre as it is materially larger in terms of floorspace than the other centres in the District; and provides town centre functions for the whole district in terms of administrative, retail, leisure, office, education and culture.

Town Centre's - Deal and Sandwich Town Centre's provide a complementary role to Dover Town Centre. The catchments of these town centres are predominantly their individual town populations and tourist trade with a wide range of shops to cater for everyday need, special interest and tourism. These towns have traditionally attracted national retailers and services as well as local businesses.

District Centre - Aylesham has been identified as a Rural Service Centre in the Settlement Hierarchy since the Dover Local Plan of 2002 and is considered to fit the definition of a District Centre, given its the largest rural settlement by population in the District. It caters for local needs and services, providing shops, including a supermarket, a range of non-retail services and local public facilities e.g. a library. It serves a limited catchment and as a location it is not appropriate for large scale retail development.

Local and Village Centres - These cater for a more restricted local need and tend to have a small catchment. Typically, local centres might include, amongst other shops, a small supermarket, a newsagent, a sub-post office, a pharmacy or a launderette. Business is often local rather than the national multiples. These centres are not appropriate for large scale retail development.

The retail hierarchy demonstrates an understanding of how the District's centres interact with one another at district and sub-regional levels. It is not designed to favour one centre over another and does not in itself direct investment decisions.

With regards to future retail need, the Retail and Town Centre Needs Assessment 2018 concluded:

  • Convenience goods – District wide forecast capacity over the plan period to 2037 can be accommodated by existing commitments
  • Comparison goods – there is no District wide capacity for new comparison goods floorspace over the short term (to 2022) and the medium term (to 2027). By 2032 there is the capacity for 615sqm net rising to 3,243 sqm net by 2037.

When capacity is assessed on a centre-by centre basis the forecasts show no quantitative need for new comparison goods floorspace for Dover (assuming constant market shares) as any residual expenditure growth over the Plan period will be absorbed by the St. James’ scheme. Any floorspace capacity over the longer term is forecast for Sandwich and Deal, with a total combined capacity of 1,923 sqm net by 2032, increasing to 2,854 sqm net by 2037.

 

2022

2027

2032

2037

Dover Town Centre

-3,592

-2,701

-1,715

-688

Deal and Sandwich Town Centres

222

1,029

1,923

2,854

All other Local and Village Centres

10

46

85

126

All Out-of-Centre Floorspace

-830

-284

321

951

Total District Wide Comparison Goods Capacity

-4,190

-1,910

615

3,243

 

However, it should be noted that capacity forecasts beyond five years should be treated with caution, as they are based on various layers of assumptions and forecasts with regard to the trading performance of existing centres and stores, the growth in population and retail spending, constant market shares, etc.

Strategic Policy 10: Quantity and Location of Retail Development

Retail development should be delivered in line with the Table above. This gives an indication of the quantitative level of retail need and shouldn't be applied rigidly. It should be regarded as a guide rather than a target.

The provision of new retail floorspace should be focused in the main towns of Dover, Deal and Sandwich first, with any further need distributed in accordance with the retail hierarchy set out above.

The provision of town centre uses should reflect the individual role, character and heritage of the town centres, and be in conformity with the other policies in the Plan.

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Strategic Policy 11: Dover Town Centre

Dover Town Centre

The Council's aspiration for Dover Town Centre is to...

  • Create a more vibrant centre by encouraging a diverse range of uses in the town centre, to maximise its attractiveness as a place to live, work and socialise;
  • Increase the number of visitors to the town centre (both residents and tourists alike) and improve dwell time;
  • Improve the synergy between different areas and visitor attractions in the town centre and beyond;
  • Enhance the environment in the town centre to make it more welcoming and renew the sense of pride in the town; and
  • Improve connectivity both within the town centre boundary, and with other areas such as the sea front to maximise and optimise the way people get to and travel around the town centre.

The strategy to deliver this aspiration is set out in Strategic Policy 11 and the Dover Town Centre Strategy Plan is below.

The strategy that has been developed for the town centre takes into account the findings of the 2017 Retail and Town Centre Needs Assessment, and the Economic Development Strategy (2020) and identifies opportunities for development within the town centre boundary, in addition to setting out general principals to guide development in the town centre area.

The focus of the strategy is to create a more vibrant town centre. This will be achieved by:

  • Reducing the town centre boundary;
  • Protecting the core primary shopping area in the town centre for commercial, business and service uses that fall under use class E of the updated use class order (Sept 2020) and other main town centres uses including: leisure, entertainment facilities, cinemas, restaurants, take-aways, bars and pubs, night clubs, casinos, health and fitness centres, indoor bowling centres, bingo halls, offices, arts, culture and tourism development (including theatres, museums, galleries, concert halls, hotels and conference facilities).
  • Taking a more flexible approach to proposals outside the core primary shopping area, and supporting a broad range of uses here, including residential and community (including libraries, public halls, places of worship and law courts) to enhance the long term vitality and viability of the town centre.

In addition to this, the strategy identifies a number of sites which present the opportunity for mixed use redevelopment within the town centre that potentially includes residential. These will contribute to the overall vibrancy of the town. These sites include the Bench Street area, the former Co-op Site, Stembrook Car park and the Mid Town area. Further development opportunities have also been identified adjacent to the Town Centre boundary at Dover Waterfront and the former Leisure Centre Site. These sites would be suitable for mixed use development.

Opportunities have also been identified at Market Square, along the section of the A20 corridor that runs through the town centre, Pencester Gardens and along the River Dour corridor to deliver public realm improvements, improve connectivity, and enhance the attractiveness of the town centre as a place to live, work and socialise. A key element of the strategy is also to improve the connectivity of the town centre with the seafront and this will be facilitated in part through the development of Dover Waterfront.

Dover Town Centre in particular offers opportunities for significant change through the redevelopment of vacant sites and replacement of poorly designed buildings. Developments with innovative layouts which maximise the use of a site and, where appropriate, make use of multiple levels are encouraged, having regard to local context and the historic setting of the town. Proposed schemes that aim to achieve landmark buildings should be of demonstrably outstanding architecture.

In order to deliver the strategy for Dover Town Centre a a co-ordinated, multi-partner, approach is required. Further design guidance will also be produced to expand upon the policy approach below and provide more detail to guide the regeneration of the town centre.

Local Plan Dover Town Centre Map Dover Town Centre Primary Shopping Areas and Town Centre Boundaries

Strategic Policy 11: Dover Town Centre

The Council will support proposals, in principle, that help to deliver the regeneration and development of Dover town centre, in accordance with the vision and town centre strategy plan above, and the principals set out below.

Dover Town Centre Uses

The primary shopping area in the town centre comprises St James St, King St, Cannon St, Biggin St and Pencester Road and this should be the focus for E class uses, in addition to pubs or drinking establishments, food and drink takeaways, and other main town centre uses, in accordance with Policy DM 25 Primary Shopping Areas.

In the wider town centre area (as defined on the town centre strategy plan) a broader range of uses will be supported including commercial, business and service uses (class E), main town centre uses, residential, and community (as set out above) so enhancing its attractiveness as a centre, extending its life into the early evening and providing a broader range of services for local people.

Opportunity Areas

Opportunity Areas have been identified on the town centre strategy plan at Bench Street; the former Co-Op Site; Stembrook Car park; and Mid Town area. These sites provide the opportunity for mixed use re-development in the town centre area to enhance the retail and leisure offer, support the local economy, promote tourism and provide residential accommodation. Further opportunities for mixed use development have also been identified adjacent to the Town Centre boundary at Dover Waterfront and the former Leisure Centre Site.

The council will also support the expansion of further and higher education facilities at the Kent College campus subject to design and other site specific considerations.

Opportunities to enhance the public realm and improve connectivity in the town centre area have been identified at Market Square; along the section of the A20 corridor that runs through the town centre; Pencester Gardens; and along the River Dour corridor. A key element of the strategy is also to improve the connectivity of the town centre with the seafront and this will be facilitated in part through the development of Dover Waterfront.

General Principles

New development should make a positive contribution to improving the town centre’s viability and vitality, support the creation of a safe, attractive, accessible and high quality environment, improve the overall mix of land uses in the centre and enhance connectivity, both within the centre and to adjoining areas. This will be achieved by:

1. Requiring all schemes to demonstrate a quality of design that makes a significant contribution to the character of the town centre, including any proposed buildings and public realm.

2. Ensuring the most effective use of land in the town centre, through the promotion of high density development where appropriate, making use of space above shops for residential, and re-using or re-developing existing buildings.

3. Encouraging the provision of flexible office space, to capitalise on the Town Centres sustainable location and excellent transport links.

4. Improving access to the town centre, and connectivity between the different areas of the town centre, to create a more legible environment and promote ease of movement.

5. Recognising the rich historical landscape in the town and ensuring that proposals conserve and enhance the setting and character of these important Heritage Assets.

6. Enhancing the quality of the environment in the town centre; improving public realm; investing in existing and establishing new green infrastructure; and enhancing visitor experience.

7. Providing opportunities for shopping, community and leisure events to encourage more people to visit the town centre.

8. Taking a balanced approach to car parking provision, that acknowledges the sustainability of the town centre and its rail and bus connections, informed by a town centre parking strategy.

To support the development and regeneration of the Town Centre further design guidance will be prepared.

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Strategic Policy 12: Deal and Sandwich Town Centres

Deal and Sandwich Town Centres

The strategy for Deal and Sandwich is to continue to protect the vitality and viability of the town centres for the communities they serve. The primary shopping areas for Deal and Sandwich are both located entirely within Conservation Areas. The context of the historic environment will play an important and defining role on any future proposals to enable an interchange between uses to adapt to market changes within the towns, whilst not compromising on their overall identities as characterful historic towns.

For Deal, the town centre will be proactively and continuously promoted as a family leisure destination which capitalises on the historic heritage, with improved connectivity to the seafront from the town to increase the tourist trade.

For Sandwich, which has certain limitations because of the historic medieval street pattern and number of listed buildings, the focus will be upon capitalising on the tourism spend within the town centre associated with the town's historic medieval heritage and golfing identity.

Deal Town Centre Primary Shopping Areas and Town Centre Boundaries Sandwich Town Centre Primary Shopping Areas and Town Centre Boundaries

Strategic Policy 12: Deal and Sandwich Town Centres

The Council will support in principle proposals which continue to place Deal and Sandwich at the heart of the communities they serve, and their role as vibrant town centres offering a range of compatible uses reflecting their individual character and economies. The commercial function of the town centres will contribute and support the overall economic strategy for the district and respect and enhance the conservation areas within which the primary shopping areas are situated. Proposals within the town centre boundary will be expected to continue to serve the local communities with a range of shops and services and contribute to the tourism offer and visitor uses.

New development should make a positive contribution to improving Deal and Sandwich town centres viability and vitality, support the creation of a safe, attractive, accessible and high quality environment, improve the overall mix of land uses in the town centres and enhance connectivity, both within the town centres and to adjoining areas.

Proposals for improving public realm; investing in existing and establishing new green infrastructure; and enhancing visitor experience will also be supported.

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DM Policy 25: Primary Shopping Areas

Retail and Town Centres

Town centres have been changing and will continue to do so through the plan period. They are no longer solely supported by traditional retail development and in order to provide vibrant places for our communities and visitors, we need to enable our Town Centres to be resilient to withstand the pressures of change by allowing them to adapt. Our Town Centres are community hubs and encompass cultural, leisure, arts and heritage uses that in turn support the tourism industry, as well as the retail and commercial uses.

Generally town centres and high streets are comprised with a close grouping of shops selling a wide range of products. Customers can fulfil the majority of their shopping needs in one trip, as well as providing the opportunity for comparing the price and availability of less frequently purchased goods. The presence of non-retail businesses in primary shopping areas can inhibit these activities by reducing the range of shops, which can reduce the number of people visiting the centre, as well as making the centre less compact and therefore less convenient and appealing. Local consumer choice needs to be maintained in order to ensure town centres can function effectively and to retain their overall vitality and viability.

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 retailing and town centres policy will apply.

Residential development plays an important role in the vitality and viability of our centres, bringing people into the town at different times of the day, increasing footfall and supporting a more vibrant evening and night time economy. We need to provide a balance between protecting our town centres from an overall erosion of those characteristics which make a vibrant town centre and enabling residential uses through appropriate parameters. Residential uses at ground floor within the primary shopping areas would be severely detrimental to the overall vitality of our town centres, by fragmenting the retail and commercial uses, but also creating incompatible living conditions for potential occupiers. There are also issues with the conversion of traditional shopfronts to allow for suitable residential frontages. These competing requirements are not always compatible within the more traditional core town centre areas.

Residential uses at ground floor level within the primary frontage areas of Dover, Deal and Sandwich will not be permitted. In considering changes of use within the town centres we will apply the principles that proposals will need to be able to attract vibrancy, activity and pedestrian footfall to the town centre during the day time. Proposals will need to be compatible with a retail area, to include an active shopfront and be immediately accessible by the public from the front elevation. They would not have an unacceptable impact on the retail function of the frontage, the attractiveness, or on the vitality and viability of the primary shopping frontage.

DM Policy 25: Primary Shopping Areas

Primary shopping areas are defined for Dover, Deal and Sandwich Town Centres as set out on the policies map. Within the Primary Shopping Areas, the Council will support in principle, retail and main town centre uses and commercial, business and services falling within Planning Use Class E, where proposals:

1. Maintain and enhance the vitality of these centres; and

2. Enable the interchange between town centre uses and uses falling within Use Class E where they would not harm the vitality and range of uses.

Proposals will need to take into account the following:

a. The ability to attract vibrancy, activity and pedestrian footfall to the town centre

b. Whether the proposal includes an active frontage and is immediately accessible by the pubic from the front

c. The impact of the proposal on the character and function of the town centre

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

Changes of use to residential will not be permitted on the ground floor of any unit within the Primary Shopping Frontage.

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DM Policy 26: Sequential Test and Impact Assessment

The Sequential Test and Impact Assessment

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. Applications for main town centre uses should 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.

DM Policy 26: Sequential Test and Impact Assessment

Proposals for retail development which are not located within the Primary Shopping Areas or for other 'main town centre uses' which are not located within the boundaries of Dover, Deal or Sandwich Town Centres (as set out on the policies map) and are not supported by other 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 that demonstrates that no suitable sites are available, firstly in the primary shopping area for retail, or the town centre boundary for other town centre uses, then edge of centre locations. Only if no sites are available in these locations should out of centre locations be considered. Preference will be given to sites that are well connected to a town centre; and

2. The proposal, either by itself or in combination with other committed development proposals, will not have a significant adverse impact on investment of the vitality and viability of a town centre, or any significant adverse impact upon the town centres can adequately be mitigated. Proposals for retail development which are greater than 350sqm, will be required to carry out an impact assessment. Other main town centre uses will be required to carry out impact assessments in line with the requirements of the NPPF.

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DM Policy 27: Local Centres

Local Centres

Whilst the majority of the districts day to day needs are served by shops within designated centres, there are a number of small individual convenience shops (below 280sqm floorspace) in locations where shops in the rest of the hierarchy are not within a convenient walking distance. These standalone shops provide a vital role in reducing car dependency and provide an accessible service at a local level and within the more rural communities. The Council will resist the loss of these smaller convenience stores in order to continue to create sustainable communities and reduce the need to travel. Where there are proposals for any new convenience stores, these will serve the local population and be of an appropriate scale to the locality.

DM Policy 27: Local Centres

The Council will protect individual convenience shops outside designated centres, even where ancillary to another use (such as petrol stations). Proposals for a change of use or alternative use will only be supported where:

a. The retail unit is vacant; and it can be clearly demonstrated through evidence of extensive, active and realistic marketing over a period of at least 12 months that there is a lack of demand for in the first instance an alternative convenience shop and then alternatively any other comparable E class use in that location; or

b. Alternative convenience retail provision is available within an 800m walking distance (not straight line distance); or

c. The replacement land use offers compelling benefits which outweigh the loss.

New individual small convenience shops, which do not exceed 280 sqm gross, will be supported where proposals demonstrate they serve the local population and are of a scale appropriate to the particular centre. Extensions to individual small convenience shops should not create a unit which exceeds 280 sqm gross.

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DM Policy 28: Shop Fronts

Shop Fronts

The character and attractiveness of an area can be added to by the quality and variety of its employment and retail shop fronts. High quality shop fronts can improve the public realm by being attractive to look at, provide coherence to the street scene and facilitate opportunities for informal gatherings. Insensitive shopfronts can damage the character of a building and the wider street scene and is of significant importance when considering the impact on conservation areas and listed buildings. Shop fronts using security shutters and grills can be particularly unattractive and can diminish the vitality of a commercial area.

DM Policy 28: Shop Fronts

New, replacement and alterations to employment and retail fronts will be supported where:

a. The scale, proportion, composition, design and decorative treatment are in keeping with the character and appearance of the building and wider street scene;

b. Proposals are considerate of the architectural styles and materials of the building and character of the wider street scene; and,

c. Architectural or historic fronts are kept and restored.

Proposals for security shutters and grilles will not be supported if they would detract from the character and appearance of the building or wider street scene.

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