Draft Black Country Plan

Ended on the 11 October 2021
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(13) 8 The Black Country Centres

Introduction

8.1 The unique character of the Black Country is largely defined by its network of centres. This provides the basic spatial structure for the sub-region and their importance to the Black Country's identity is reflected in Strategic Priority 9.

8.2 The purpose of the centres policies is to help secure the investment, jobs and regeneration needed to create a mature, balanced, and well-functioning network of centres where residents shop, work, live and spend their leisure time. Concentrating development in centres that are highly accessible by a variety of sustainable means of transport contributes towards planning priorities such as health and wellbeing and addressing climate change. Delivering a vital and viable network of centres will significantly contribute towards meeting the current and future service needs of Black Country residents, particularly serving future housing and employment growth, as well as providing a unique opportunity to improve the quality and experience of the built environment. As a result, centres are crucial to the delivery of Spatial Objectives 3, 4, 7, 8, 9 and 10.              

8.3 Whilst the BCP does not allocate sites in tier-one strategic centres or allocate sites for centre uses, the following centres policies set out the framework for determining proposals across the whole Black Country relating to:

a) bringing forward policies and allocations for these uses in Local Development Plans to facilitate the consolidation, diversification, enhancement, and regeneration of the Black Country's centres. Local Development Plans refer to documents that provide planning guidance such as Tier-Two Plans (e.g. AAPs SADs), SPDs, planning briefs and masterplans
b) appropriate uses: as set out in Appendix 16 for the purposes of determining planning applications, and policies and proposals in future Local Development Plans, related to BCP Policies CEN1-CEN6, "appropriate uses" include business, commercial, service and community uses and comprise:

  1. Centre Uses - those uses and "sui generis" designations that should be directed to defined centres in the first instance, are subject to requirements set out in national guidance (such as the sequential test and impact assessments); local policy (particularly Policies CEN1 - CEN6), such as the floorspace thresholds for undertaking the impact assessments set out in national guidance; and Local Development Plan policies (such as frontage policies), defined as currently including:
    • 'Main Town Centre Uses'set out in NPPF Annex 2: Retail development (including warehouse clubs and factory outlet centres); leisure, entertainment and more intensive sport and recreation uses (including cinemas, restaurants, drive-through restaurants, bars and pubs, nightclubs, casinos, health and fitness centres, indoor bowling centres and bingo halls); offices; and arts, culture and tourism development (including theatres, museums, galleries and concert halls, hotels and conference facilities)
    • 'Additional Uses': those uses that are highly compatible, with the previous bullet point above, such as banks, cafes and hot food takeaways (see Appendix 16)
  2. 'Complementary Uses': those uses well-placed to be provided in centres, and where proposals for such uses to serve centres will be supported, such as residential and social infrastructure (health, education and community uses) (see Appendix 16)

8.4 This chapter consists of three sections relating to: centre-wide proposals (Policy CEN1), in-centre proposals (Policies CEN2 - CEN4), and edge-of-centre and out-of-centre proposals (Policies CEN5 - CEN6).

Figure 7 - Centres Key Diagram

Figure 7 - Centres Key Diagram

 

The Black Country Centres

8.5 The Black Country's centres are evolving and are subject to change in different ways as the focus shifts between retail, leisure, commercial, residential, community services, health, local facilities and further education and civic uses. It is a priority to maintain and enhance them appropriate to their scale, role, and function in order to underpin the vital role they play contributing to the economic growth, character, and identity of the Black Country. The tier-one strategic centres provide the main focus for higher order sub-regional retail, office, leisure, cultural and service activities, balanced by the network of tier-two and three town, district and local centres, providing for centre uses including meeting day-to-day needs of local communities, particularly convenience (food) shopping. However, it is recognised that the repurposing and diversification of centres need to be facilitated to ensure their vitality and viability and secure their future regeneration.

8.6 This policy sets out the overall priorities and strategy for centres. It defines the hierarchy of centres and sets out, where subject to planning control, policy requirements and linkages to other relevant policies, related to proposals for appropriate uses identified in paragraph 8.3b above, brought forward through planning applications, other BCP policies or Local Development Plans. This policy establishes that the approach to future growth identified in Policy CSP1, particularly housing and employment growth identified in Policies HOU1 and EMP1, and allocations in Chapter 13, should have their needs met by the existing network of centres, and emphasises a flexible approach to help secure the successful future of those centres (Strategic Priority 9).
 

(17) Policy CEN1 - The Black Country Centres

  1. The priority for the Black Country's Centres is to ensure they remain focused on serving the needs of their communities, through performing a well-balanced diversity of commercial, business and service functions. This includes retail provision and an increasing mix of leisure, office, residential and other appropriate, complementary uses that are accessible by a variety of sustainable means of transport. This will enable centres to make a key contribution to regeneration, tackling climate change, fostering healthy communities, and creating pleasant, safe public spaces to increase social interaction and cohesion.
  2. The Black Country's defined centres comprise the hierarchy set out in Table 7, which are identified on the Centres Key Diagram (Figure 7). This hierarchy will be supported and protected by ensuring that development in centres is facilitated in a manner that reflects their scale, role, and function, and resisting proposals that would undermine this strategy.
  3. Proposals for "Centre Uses" (paragraph 8.3b) that are "in-centre" (within the relevant boundaries / Primary Shopping Areas of defined centres) are subject to specific policy requirements, as set out in Table 7 and policies CEN2 - CEN4, as well as relevant policies in Local Development Plans.
  4. Proposals for "Centre Uses" that are not "in-centre" (are not within the relevant boundaries / Primary Shopping Areas of a defined centre but are in edge-of-centre or out-of-centre locations), must meet the sequential test and other relevant requirements, such as impact tests (as set out in Table 7 and policies CEN5 - CEN6), as well as relevant policies in Local Development Plans.
  5. Future growth in the Black Country, particularly housing and employment development identified in Policies HOU1 and EMP1 and allocations set out in Chapter 13, should have their service needs met by, and contribute to the regeneration of, the existing network of centres (see paragraph 8.17).
  6. Where planning permission is granted, or Local Development Plan policies and allocations are made, effective planning conditions and policy wording must be used (see paragraph 8.12)
  7. A land use approach will be adopted with appropriate degrees of flexibility as necessary to suit local circumstances, to encourage regeneration and to meet the challenges facing centres, particularly as little retail capacity has been identified to support additional floorspace, through supporting:
    1. diversifying and repurposing of centres enhanced by appropriate complementary uses, particularly residential, education, health and community uses and supporting the evening economy;
    2. the consolidation and reconfiguration of vacant floorspace into a mix of uses, especially the use of upper floors, and / or extensions to existing floorspace, with any new development being well-integrated with existing provision;
    3. enhancing the vitality, accessibility and sustainability of centres, including maximising public realm, open space, provision of suitably-located and accessible pedestrian and cycle networks, and provision of green infrastructure and vehicle charging points.


(2) Table 7 - Black Country Hierarchy of Centres

Local Authority

Dudley

Sandwell

Walsall

Wolverhampton

Relevant Centres Policies and Test requirements and thresholds for proposals subject to planning control, in addition to any local policy requirements

Tier

Type

Location

In-centre

Edge-of-centre

Out-of-Centre

One

Strategic Centres

Brierley Hill

West Bromwich

Walsall Town Centre

Wolverhampton City Centre

Policy CEN1

 

Policy CEN2

Policy CEN1

Policy CEN2

 

Policy CEN5

(if floorspace uplift/ unit size <280sqm see paragraph 8.48 - 9)

Policy CEN6

 

Sequential Test

Impact Tests

(if total floorspace >280sqm see paragraphs 8.60 - 8.61)

Policy CEN1

Policy CEN5

(if floorspace uplift/ unit size <280sqm see paragraph 8.48 - 9)

Policy CEN6

Sequential Test

Impact Tests

(if total floorspace >280sqm see paragraphs 8.60 – 8.61)

These requirements, particularly Policy CEN5, also apply to all proposals for relevant uses through Policy EMP3, and proposals on sites identified as having potential for an element of on-site provision in Chapter 13, Policy HOU2

Two

Town centres in Dudley, Sandwell and Wolverhampton and district centres in Walsall

Dudley

Stourbridge

Halesowen

Blackheath

Cradley Heath

Great Bridge, Oldbury

Wednesbury

Cape Hill

Bearwood

Bloxwich

Brownhills

Aldridge

Willenhall

Darlaston

Bilston

Wednesfield

Policy CEN1

 

Policy CEN3

Policy CEN1

Policy CEN3

Policy CEN5 (if floorspace uplift/ unit size <280sqm see paragraphs 8.48 – 8.49)

 

Policy CEN6

Sequential Test

Impact Tests (if total floorspace >280sqm see paragraphs 8.60 – 8.61)

Three

District and local centres in Dudley, Sandwell and Wolverhampton and Local Centres in Walsall

Kingswinford

Lye

Sedgley

Amblecote

Cradley / Windmill Hill

Gornal Wood

Netherton

Pensnett

Quarry Bank

Roseville

Shell Corner

The Stag

Upper Gornal

Wall Heath

Wollaston

Wordsley

Hawne

Oldswinford

Quinton

Owen Street

Scott Arms

Carters Green

Stone Cross

Smethwick High Street

Hill Top

Brandhall

Bristnall

Causeway Green

Charlemont

Crankhall Lane

Cankhall Lane

Dudley Port

Lion Farm

Poplar Rise

St.Marks Rd

Vicarage Road

West Cross

Whiteheath Gate

Yew Tree

Tividale

Park Lane

Princes End

Queens Head

Rood End

Smethwick High St (Lower)

Langley

Hamstead

Old Hill

Caldmore

Stafford Street

Pleck

Pelsall

Leamore

Palfrey

High St, Walsall Wood

Rushall

Blakenall

Lane Head

Streetly

Queslett

Lazy Hill

New Invention

Bentley

Park Hall

Moxley

Fullbrook

Collingwood Dr, Pheasey

Birchills

Coalpool / Ryecroft

Beechdale

The Butts

Spring Lane, Shelfield

Beacon Road, Pheasey

Brackendale

Woodlands

Shelfield

South Mossley

Dudley Fields

Streets Corner

Buxton Road, Bloxwich

Coppice Farm

Turnberry Road, Bloxwich

Blackwood

Stafford Road (Three Tuns)

Cannock Road (Scotlands)

Tettenhall Village

Whitmore Reans / Avion Centre

Broadway

Bushbury Lane

Showell Circus

Wood End

Stubby Lane

Heath Town

Parkfield

Spring Hill

Penn Manor

Upper Penn

Penn Fields

Bradmore

Merry Hill

Castlecroft

Finchfield

Tettenhall Wood

Newbridge

Aldersley

Pendeford Park

Fallings Park

Ashmore Park

Compton Village

Warstones Road

Dudley Road (Blakenhall)

Chapel Ash

Policy CEN1

 

Policy CEN4

Policy CEN1

Policy CEN4

Policy CEN5 (if floorspace uplift/unit size <280sqm see paragraphs 8.48 – 8.49)

Policy CEN6

Sequential Test

Impact Tests (if total floorspace >280sqm see paragraphs 8.60 – 8.61)

 

Justification

8.7 Centres are best placed to sustainably serve their communities' needs as places to shop, work, study, spend leisure time and live. Centres therefore need to offer the best accessibility to a range of services for residents, workers and visitors, particularly by public transport, walking and cycling. The concentration of investment within centres is the basis to achieve transformation and economic growth, to make the fullest possible use of existing and future infrastructure and to deliver sustainable regeneration. Centres make crucial contributions to sustainability through helping tackle climate change (Policies CC1 – CC7), reducing the need to travel, and promoting healthy communities (Policies HW1 – HW3), well-designed public realm (Policy ENV9) and green infrastructure (such as provision of green open space) (Policy ENV8).

8.8 Appropriate usesrelated to centres are set out in para 8.3b and Appendix 16
 

Definitions of in, edge and out-of-centre locations.

8.9 Appendix 16 sets out the specific locations that are defined by each authority as being either in, edge-of or out-of-centre for various uses, to assist with applying relevant policies and national tests highlighted in Table 7, including:

a) In-centre locations for appropriate uses are those defined in Local Development Plans, such as primary shopping areas and centre boundaries, and are subject to Policies CEN2 - CEN4.
b) Edge-of-centre locations for tier-one and tier-two centres are those locations defined by national guidance, currently within 300m of in-centre locations. For retail purposes, this is a location that is well-connected to, and up to 300 metres from, the primary shopping area. For all other main town centre uses, this will be a location within 300 metres of a town centre boundary. For office development, this includes locations outside the centre but within 500 metres of a public transport interchange. Locations immediately adjoining the boundaries of Tier-Three Centres are defined as edge-of-centre.
c) Out-of-centre locations are those locations not in or on the edge of a centre. Proposals in edge and out-of-centre locations need to meet the requirements of Policies CEN5 and CEN6.
 

Use of latest available evidence

8.10 Supporting information and the assessment of proposed development, should be informed by the latest available evidence, especially related to quantitative evidence (such as capacity for relevant uses) and qualitative evidence (such as relating to the vitality and viability of centres), particularly from the Black Country Centres Study. Further information regarding evidence to inform impact assessments is set out in Policy CEN6 (paragraph 8.64). This is particularly important as current modelling suggests a lack of capacity to support future additional floorspace in centres; therefore, it is crucial to test the impact of proposals in edge or out-of-centre locations.
 

Flexibility

8.11 In addition to facilitating the short-term occupation of units for innovative uses, an appropriately flexible approach to encouraging reoccupation, reconfiguration and re-purposing of floorspace can be applied. This can include supporting hybrid uses relating to day and evening economy and material considerations such as units that has been vacant for a long period of time e.g. actively marketed for the sale of retail goods for at least six months.
 

Effective Use of Conditions

8.12 Where planning permission is granted, effective planning conditions and / or planning obligations will be required, and effective policy wording should be used, to support the regeneration strategy and minimise impacts. Conditions should address, for example, the definition of specific (sub) categories of uses that are acceptable and the types of goods and service to be sold, unit sizes and sales areas, including mezzanine floors, future sub-division of units, and opening hours, particularly for proposals in edge and out-of-centre locations (Policies CEN2 - CEN6) in order to minimise their impacts on centres.

8.13 Centres are evolving and are subject to change in different ways. Challenges facing the High Street include those from changing shopping patterns (particularly in relation to the rise of online shopping), to the closure of anchor stores run by long-standing national multiple operators, resulting in centres' viability and vitality being unduly impacted upon by, for example, evidence of high vacancy rates. Changing working patterns, including the growth of home working, means that there is uncertainty about future centres-based office activity. The increase in city living means there is the potential for new residential development being able to contribute significantly towards regeneration, particularly as a part of mixed-use development and upper floor living, as well as on redundant and vacant in-centre sites.

8.14 Therefore, future growth and investment in centres will not necessarily be led by the retail sector.

8.15 Future investment will focus on qualitative improvements and more flexibility to protect centres, rather than additional floorspace. It will be market-led and will facilitate reoccupation, reconfiguration, and re-purposing, particularly of vacant floorspace. This approach will seek to ensure that centres are well balanced, with a mix of uses performing a variety of functions. This is reflected in this Chapter's policy approach, the Strategic Centre section in Chapter 13, which will be expanded upon in Local Development Plans, and which identifies the potential for active BCA-led intervention to secure longer-terms benefits for, and growth of, centres. Maximum opportunity should be made of structural changes to centres, such as floorspace changing to other uses (particularly residential), and an increased focus for centres:

a) providing services/ non-transactional uses, including high activity-based uses such as health, education and civic facilities;
b) providing an enhanced experience, a unique sense of place and well-balanced marketing, with centres functioning as community meeting and focal points, generating footfall and facilitating alternative uses (potentially mixed uses) that function both during the day and in the evening;
c) supporting independent operators, local markets, and short-term occupation of units for innovative uses;
d) providing enhanced connectivity and visibility and digital resilience by adapting to technological change, to help create and deliver "smart" and interconnected development and associated services in centres, such as can be achieved through the provision of 5G and super-fast fibre optic broadband (full fibre to the premises - FFTTP);
e) supporting and providing local retail provision.

8.16 To support, protect and enhance provision to serve Black Country communities, a hierarchy of centres, consisting of three tiers, is identified in Table 7, which sets out the relevant policies and test thresholds contained in Policies CEN2 - CEN6 for determining proposals. This policy framework will support more detailed policies in Local Development Plans, which cover a range of different issues e.g. urban design, that are structured to reflect each centre's scale and function. Proposals relating to centres will also have to meet other relevant BCP policy requirements e.g. car parking (Policy TRAN6). Relevant Local Development Plans may adjust centre boundaries, adjust Local Centre boundaries, designate new local centres, or remove existing local centres from the hierarchy (see paragraph 8.40).

8.17 The priority is for future growth in the Black Country, especially growth identified in BCP housing and employment allocations, to be served by the existing network of centres to ensure their future vitality and viability and secure future regeneration as emphasised in Policy CSP1. Proposals under Policy EMP2, EMP3 and HOU2 will also have to meet the relevant policy requirements, particularly of Policy CEN5.
 

Evidence

  • Black Country Centres Study Main Report (March 2020) and Update (August 2021) (Lambert Smith Hampton)
     

Delivery

  • Development Management through the determination of planning applications; Local Development Plans; Black Country Local Authority projects; and sub-regional, regional, and national schemes and funding mechanisms
     

Issues & Options Consultation

8.18 Most centres have been identified and the existing hierarchy of centres is working. There was the view that the policies were over prescriptive on uses allowed in these locations. The option to have a prescriptive policy approach would risk losing future investment, jobs and regeneration, or the option maximising flexibility, would not give a sufficient policy steer to secure future vitality and viability of centres by facilitating a well-balanced mix of uses. The new proposed policy joins BCCS Policies CEN1 and CEN2 into a flexible but robust policy, that sets out a clear framework for further detail to be provided in other BCP policies and Local Development Plans.

8.19 There was the suggestion that Hardwick should be put forward as a new local centre, and that Merry Hill needed to be considered as an out-of-centre location as it bears few of the characteristics of a town centre and clearly functions as a separate entity from Brierley Hill centre. The designation of Brierley Hill (which includes Merry Hill) as a Strategic Centre came forward through extensive regional planning work and in the adopted Black Country Core Strategy. The adopted Brierley Hill AAP provides specific local policies to facilitate the functioning of Brierley Hill as a Strategic Centre. There is no substantive evidence to justify altering tier-one and tier-two centres in the hierarchy.

8.20 Regarding possible adjustments to Tier Three Local Centres, this would be best placed to come forward through Local Development Plans, with the potential scope of evidence to inform this process being set out in paragraph 8.40.
 

In-Centre Proposals (Policies CEN2-4)

8.21 In-centre locations for appropriate uses are those defined in Local Development Plans, such as primary shopping areas and centre boundaries and are set out in Appendix 16.
 

Tier One: Strategic Centres

8.22 The four strategic centres of Brierley Hill, Walsall, West Bromwich, and Wolverhampton play a crucial role as key foci for the Black Country's economy. This policy sets out the approach and priorities for Strategic Centres in promoting appropriate levels of diversification and flexibility so that investment and regeneration can be maximised and will contribute to meeting priorities such as sustainability, tackling climate change and improving well-being and health. Whilst the BCP does not provide site allocations for strategic centres, further information about each strategic centre is provided in Chapter 13 and specific policies bespoke to each strategic centre and site allocations will be covered by Local Development Plans.
 

(12) Policy CEN2 – Tier One: Strategic Centres

Diversification and Flexibility of Uses

  1. It is a priority for Strategic Centres to serve the identified BCP housing and employment growth aspirations (Policy CEN1 part 5). The diversification of Strategic Centres to provide a re-purposed well-balanced mix of appropriate uses cited in paragraph 8.3b will be supported, in particular:
    1. Residential provision will be maximised, to increase and strengthen communities, with indicative housing capacity identified for each strategic centre in Chapter 13 (see paragraph 8.27)
    2. Complementary uses as set out in paragraph 8.3bii, particularly community, health and education uses (see also Policy HOU5 and Policy HW2)

      Centre Uses

       
  2. Development should be focussed in strategic centres (in-centre locations being defined in paragraph 8.9), particularly large-scale proposals to serve wider catchment areas, to maximise linked trips, promote the use of sustainable modes of transport and support regeneration.

    Retail

     
  3. Existing ‘convenience’ and ‘comparison’ retail provision will be protected and appropriate new development in this use supported, to meet both local shopping needs and large-scale provision to serve the wider catchment; focused on re-purposing vacant floorspace (Policy CEN1 point 7 and paragraph 8.15).

    Leisure

     
  4. Leisure uses, especially large-scale public and commercial facilities such as cinemas, hotels, and a wide range of high quality family venues and activities, will be supported where they help to diversify strategic centres, encourage linked trips and enhance the evening economy and visitor experience (see paragraph 8.25).Office
  5. Office provision, particularly that of high quality, will be supported, especially as strategic centres are important places of work, with it being a priority to. identify and maintain a suitable portfolio of sites available to meet future demand (see paragraphs 8.24 and 8.26).
  6. Proposals in edge-of-centre and / or out-of-centre locations (paragraph 8.9) will have to meet the relevant requirements set out in Policies CEN1 Table 7, CEN5 and CEN6 (paragraph 8.28).

    Sustainability

     
  7. High quality public realm: strategic centres, as a focus for service provision, are highly sustainable locations and it is a priority to ensure high quality public realm is delivered, supported through environmental policies (Policy ENV9)
  8. Accessibility: strategic centres should be accessible by a variety of means of transport, particularly walking, cycling and public transport. Proposals for commercial and business development that involve more than 500 sq m (gross) of floorspace within the primary shopping areas of the Black Country’s strategic centres and well-linked edge-of-centre locations shall evidence the means to which they are compatible with the objectives of achieving sustainable development. This evidence must incorporate the setting out of provisions for the enablement or enhancement of sustainable means of travel and integrated modes of transport to and within individual strategic centres, with a particular focus on the management of demand for car parking and car-borne traffic, including through car parking regimes. Further details are set out in Policy TRAN6, and Local Development Plans.
  9. In making planning decisions, further guidance (such as frontage policy) is set out in Local Development Plans.

 

Justification

8.23 The Centres Study is informed by a Household Survey that identifies changes in shopping patterns, especially the continued growth of online shopping, and health-checks are identifying that strategic centres are facing a number of challenges – particularly in relation to relatively high vacancy rates. The commercial market across all sectors, but particularly affecting the traditional High Street, has materially evolved and changed. A more pragmatic and flexible approach needs to be undertaken in addressing the future growth of the Strategic Centres, which does not necessarily place sole emphasis on the retail sector. Rather, this approach allows for greater emphasis on services, communal or civic uses, and incorporates qualitative enhancements to the existing provision. It also supports a mix of uses in relation to new development including consideration for different types, including 'concurrent', 'meanwhile' and 'co-operative' uses of units. This means it is essential to provide appropriate flexibility to enable strategic centres to diversify and be re-purposed to ensure their future vitality and viability is maintained and enhanced. This includes prioritising high-quality public realm including, for example, provision of high-quality open space, green infrastructure, pedestrian and cycle networks and electric vehicle charging points (Policies CSP4, HW1 – HW3, TRAN5 and TRAN8, ENV8).

8.24 Current evidence shows there is no capacity to support additional retail, leisure, and office floorspace; it would not therefore be appropriate to include specific formal targets for different uses in policy. Planning decisions, such as applications and Local Development Plan allocations should be informed by the latest available evidence, and the Black Country authorities will seek to re-model capacity, particularly for retail, periodically in the future. The emphasis therefore is on the consolidation of core areas as opposed to expansion or identifying larger comprehensive development at in-centre or edge-of-centre sites, with any future potential for new floorspace likely to be met through infill development, reuse / reconfiguration of vacant units, change of use applications and/or extensions to existing stores, as emphasised in Policy CEN1 point 7 and Chapter 13. Local Development Plans provide more detailed, locally focused policies, such as protected frontages policy, and future allocations will be informed by the latest available evidence, particularly regarding capacity (see paragraph 8.10).

8.25 It is important that commercial and public leisure provision, particularly of a large scale, is focussed in Strategic Centres, to support their balanced functioning, encourage linked trips, enhance the evening economy, and diversify the experiential nature of centres. There is a priority for new cinema provision in Wolverhampton City Centre.

8.26 Changing working patterns, including an increase in agile and flexible working, means that future office environments are likely to be configured differently. Future office provision is likely to be predominantly market-led. Strategic centres are important places of work, with office workers making a positive contribution towards ensuring the vitality and viability of centres. The latest evidence (see paragraph 8.10) regarding office capacity will help inform planning decisions, and Local Development Plans can provide a more detailed steer. This could include identifying a portfolio of potential office sites, particularly as part of a mix of uses, including requiring a minimum 'reservoir' of office floorspace is maintained to ensure that sites are available for office development when demand emerges whilst ensuring other appropriate uses can also come forward.

8.27 City living and residential development in centres is likely to be a growth area over the plan period and will make a positive contribution to regeneration, particularly as a part of mixed-use development and upper floor living. Residential provision should therefore be maximised, to facilitate strategic centres as important places to live, supporting a resident population and local service provision. Identified residential capacity for each strategic centre is contained in Chapter 13 and will inform planning decisions and residential allocations being identified Local Development Plans.

8.28 The priority is for future growth in the Black Country, especially growth identified in BCP housing and employment allocations, to be served by the existing network of centres, providing the opportunity to support the network of Strategic Centres (Policy CEN1, paragraph 8.17). The fragility of centres with challenges to ensuring their vitality and viability means it's important to have robust tests for new proposals within 300m of a relevant boundary (see paragraph 8.9), as set out in Policies CEN1 point 4, Table 7 and CEN5 and CEN6.

8.29 It is recognised that individual Strategic Centres have their own vehicle parking regimes and approaches to parking, both within, and outside, the influence of the planning system. Nevertheless, a common approach going forward is required in order to ensure and enhance sustainability and encourage a modal shift in transport towards public transport, cycling and walking, as well as reducing the need to travel. This can help to be achieved by ensuring relevant in-centre and edge-of-centre development contributes to facilitating this objective, as well as by helping manage the demand for, and seeking an appropriate degree of parity between, car parking provision in Strategic Centres.

8.30 The strategic centre boundaries identified in the Proposals Map (see Chapter 13) are used for the purposes of determining what is in and out-of-scope in terms of BCP allocations, and do not necessarily reflect a boundary in policy terms. Relevant strategic centre boundaries are contained in and may be adjusted by Local Development Plans (see CEN1 paragraph 8.16).
 

Tier Two Centres

8.31 The Black Country's tier two centres, as identified in Policy CEN1 Table 7, consist of Walsall's district centres and Dudley, Sandwell, and Wolverhampton's town centres. They are a distinctive and valued part of the Black Country's character. This network of centres will help to meet needs in the most accessible and sustainable way. This policy supports the important local function provided by Tier Two Centres, particularly convenience retail provision, and their future diversification and regeneration of town centres.
 

(4) Policy CEN3 - Tier Two Centres

  1. Proposals for appropriate uses (paragraph 8.3b) will be supported within tier-two centres (in-centre locations being defined in paragraph 8.9), particularly where they contribute to providing a diverse mix of uses, such as retail, office, leisure, residential, community, health, education and cultural facilities, and where they are of a scale that reflects the size, role and function of those centres and the catchments the centres serve.
  2. It is a priority for tier-two centres to serve the needs of development identified in the BCP, particularly residential and employment allocations (CEN1 point 5).
  3. Convenience retail development is encouraged, and proposals to extend or refurbish existing stores where they are well-integrated with the centre will be supported.
  4. In the assessment and determination of planning proposals, the distinctive offer, unique character, and special roles played by individual centres will be recognised and will be given appropriate weight when decisions are taken on applications that may affect the characteristics of the area.
  5. Proposals in edge-of-centre and/ or out-of-centre locations (paragraph 8.9) must meet the relevant requirements set out in Policies CEN1 Table 7, CEN5 and CEN6 (paragraph 8.35).
  6. In making planning decisions further guidance (such as frontage policy) is set out in Local Development Plans.

 

Justification

8.32 The Black Country's network of tier two centres performs an important role. In particular, the food (convenience) shopping function will be protected and supported especially as these uses help anchor the retail offer of the whole centre, encourage linked trips, and thereby help ensure the vitality and viability of centres.

8.33 The Centres Study health checks identify little capacity for these centres to support additional retail floorspace. The priority is for future growth in the Black Country, especially growth identified in BCP housing and employment allocations, to be served by the existing network of centres, providing the opportunity to support the network of tier two centres (as set out in Policy CEN1 and paragraph 8.17).

8.34 There is therefore a need for strategic interventions to enable centres to diversify further to ensure their future vitality and viability. This policy provides a framework to be supported by more detailed bespoke plans and projects that reflect the distinctiveness of tier-two centres, such as the heritage and education focus of Dudley Town Centre, the civic function of Oldbury, the role of the markets at Bilston, and the importance of independent shops in Willenhall. These can take the form of Local Development Plans (where centre boundaries can be adjusted if necessary), plus funding initiatives such as the Future High Street Fund.

8.35 Edge and / or out-of-centre proposals (as defined in paragraph 8.9) have to meet the relevant requirements of Policies CEN5 and CEN6 in order to protect centres from impacts of any inappropriate edge or out-of-centre proposals and ensure their vitality and viability. Local Development Plans provide more detailed, locally focused policies, such as protected frontages policy and may adjust relevant tier-two centre boundaries.
 

Evidence

  • Black Country Centres Study Main Report (March 2020) and Update (August 2021) (Lambert Smith Hampton)
     

Delivery

  • Development Management through the determination of planning applications; Local Development Plans; Black Country Local Authority projects; and sub-regional, regional, and national schemes and funding mechanisms
     

Issues & Options Consultation

8.36 Feedback included that the policy should be flexible with uses in centres to allow for changes in shopping patterns and encouraging the greening of centres, including multifunctional green infrastructure such as provision of trees. Rather than adopt the option of the centres policies being silent on this, as BCP environment policies encourage green infrastructure, Policy CEN1 emphasises the importance of such provision in all centres and provides a policy cross-reference. CEN3 seeks to encourage a diverse mix of uses in the centres and extending/ refurbishing existing stores would be supported. The Centres Study identifies little capacity to support additional floorspace in these centres, so emphasis is placed on consolidation and diversification to ensure their future viability and vitality.
 

Tier Three Centres

8.37 The Black Country's tier-three centres, as identified in Policy CEN1 Table 7, consist of Walsall's local centres and Dudley, Sandwell, and Wolverhampton's district and local centres. This policy protects and supports the large network of centres that provide day-to-day convenience shopping and local service needs.
 

(1) Policy CEN4 - Tier Three Centres

  1. Proposals for appropriate uses (paragraph 8.3b) will be supported within tier-three centres (in-centre locations being defined in paragraph 8.9) particularly commercial, business and service uses that meet day-to-day needs and serve local communities within the catchment area of those centres
  2. It is a priority for tier three centres to serve the day-to-day shopping and service needs of development identified in the BCP, particularly residential and employment allocations (Policy CEN1 point 5). Convenience retail development is encouraged and proposals to extend or refurbish existing food stores where they are well-integrated with the centre will be supported.
  3. Proposals in edge-of-centre (directly adjoining a centre boundary – paragraph 8.9) and / or out-of-centre locations have to meet the relevant requirements as set out in Policies CEN1 Table 7, CEN5 and CEN6 (paragraph 8.35).
  4. In making planning decisions, further guidance (such as frontage policy) is set out in Local Development Plans.

 

Justification

8.38 The network of tier three centres is crucial to serving the local needs of the Black Country's existing and future communities in the most sustainable way. Existing centres are dependent on smaller supermarkets and / or convenience stores to anchor their retail offer.

8.39 The priority is for future growth in the Black Country, especially growth identified in BCP housing and employment allocations, to be served by the existing network of centres, providing the opportunity to support the network of tier three centres (Policy CEN1, paragraph 8.17). Edge-of-centre (where proposals do not directly adjoin a centre boundary – paragraph 8.9) and out-of-centre proposals have to meet the relevant requirements of Policies CEN5 and CEN6 in order to protect centres from the impacts of any inappropriate edge or out-of-centre proposals and ensure their vitality and viability.

8.40 Local Development Plans provide more detailed, locally focused policies, such as protected frontages policy. Local Development Plans may adjust local centre boundaries, designate new local centres, or remove local centres from the network and hierarchy. New local centres identified in this way would become part of the network of tier-three centres in the hierarchy (CEN1 Table 7) and would become subject to relevant BCP policies, particularly Policies CEN1 - CEN6. This process should be justified with robust evidence; for example, relating to catchment areas, physical constraints, existing and future potential provision, the vitality and viability of centres and other relevant policy considerations.
 

Evidence

  • Black Country Centres Study Main Report (March 2020) and Update (August 2021) (Lambert Smith Hampton)
     

Delivery

  • Development Management through the determination of planning applications; Local Development Plans; Black Country Local Authority projects; and sub-regional, regional, and national schemes and funding mechanisms
     

Issues & Options Consultation

8.41 Responses emphasised the need for flexibility to allow Tier Three Centres to remain strong and provide services to the local community, with it no longer being appropriate for centres to be dominated by retail as vacancies remain high. The policy ensures that tier three centres are able to serve the local needs of the communities in a sustainable way. The option to remove the emphasis on retail is balanced by encouraging diversification but still acknowledging the importance smaller supermarkets/ convenience stores play in serving local communities, and particularly in the future to support the Black Country's housing growth. Local Development Plans will be able to adjust e.g. frontage policies to facilitate further diversification.
 

Edge-of-Centre and Out-of-Centre Proposals (Policies CEN5 and CEN6)

8.42 Proposals in edge and out-of-centre locations need to meet the requirements of Policies CEN5 and CEN6.

8.43 As set out in paragraph 8.9, Appendix 16 sets out the specific locations that are defined as edge or out-of-centre for various uses by the BCA, to assist with applying relevant policies and national tests highlighted in Table 7.

8.44 Edge-of-centre locations for tier-one and tier-two centres are those locations defined by national guidance, currently within 300m of in-centre locations. For retail purposes, this is a location that is well-connected to, and up to 300 metres from, the primary shopping area (see Appendix 16). For all other main town centre uses, this will be a location within 300 metres of a town centre boundary. For office development, this includes locations outside the centre but within 500 metres of a public transport interchange. Locations immediately adjoining the boundaries of Tier Three centres are defined as edge-of-centre.

8.45 Out-of-centre locations are those locations not in or on the edge of a centre.
 

Provision of Small-Scale Local Facilities not in centres

8.46 This policy applies to proposals for small-scale local facilities (centre uses and complementary usesincluding social infrastructure and community uses – paragraph 8.3b) not in a centre (in edge and/ or out-of-centre locations as defined in paragraph 8.9), which have a proposed unit floorspace of under 280sqm (gross), as set out in paragraph 8.48 below. The priority is for local service needs, particularly that generated from the future growth identified for the Black Country (Policy CEN1 point 5), to be met by the existing network of centres, to ensure their vitality and viability. However, some small-scale provision may be justified in certain circumstances to meet local community needs.
 

(3) Policy CEN5 - Provision of Small-Scale Local Facilities

  1. Proposals subject to planning control for small-scale local facilities (centre uses and complementary uses set out in paragraph 8.3b), in edge or out-of-centre locations (paragraph 8.9) that have a proposed unit floorspace of up to 280sqm (gross) (paragraph 8.48) will only be permitted if all the following requirements are met:
    1. The proposal does not unduly impact on the health and wellbeing of the community it is intended to serve.
    2. The proposal is of an appropriate scale and nature to meet the specific day-to-day needs of a population within convenient, safe walking distance for new or improved facilities.
    3. Local provision could not be better met by investment in a nearby centre (which for centre uses identified in paragraph 8.3b, is the sequential test as set out in national guidance).
    4. Existing facilities that meet day-to-day needs will not be undermined.
    5. Access to the proposal by means other than by car can be demonstrated and will be improved; this will be evidenced by the proposal being within convenient, safe walking distance of the community it will serve.
  2. Development involving the loss of a local facility, particularly a convenience shop, pharmacy, community facility or post office, will be resisted where this would result in an increase in the number of people living more than a convenient, safe walking distance from alternative provision.
  3. In making planning decisions further guidance is set out in Local Development Plans.
  4. Where planning permissions are granted, effective planning conditions and / or planning obligations will be required to support the regeneration strategy and minimise impacts (Policy CEN1 point 6 and paragraph 8.12).
  5. Proposals where total floorspace exceeds 280sqm (gross) will also have to meet the requirements of Policy CEN6 (see paragraphs 8.49 - 8.50).

 

Justification

8.47 The existing network of centres plays a crucial role in serving the local needs of the Black Country. Centres are also dependent on smaller units, such as supermarkets and convenience stores, to anchor their retail and service offer. It is therefore a priority to protect and support this approach. Local facilities are also provided in existing stand-alone locations and by small parades of shops. It is recognised that stand-alone provision to serve local communities, particularly where it offers social infrastructure, plays a positive role under certain, specific circumstances.

8.48 This policy relates to proposals for small-scale local facilities (uses as defined in paragraph 8.3b) for units of up to 280sqm (gross) of floorspace and extensions (including internal floorspace increases such as the provision of mezzanine floors) where the proposed uplift in floorspace is up to 280sqm (gross) (see also paragraphs 8.49 – 8.50) and applies to new development, changes of use and variations of conditions, including:

a) proposals related to petrol filling stations and drive-through facilities;
b) proposals for ancillary uses under Policy EMP3;
c) where the potential for an element of on-site provision of new local facilities is identified in Chapter 13 and / or Local Development Plans to serve the specific needs of future development, or in exceptional circumstances where such proposals are brought forward through speculative planning applications, (whereby the requirements of Policy HOU2 also have to be met particularly with respect to demonstrating high levels of accessibility by sustainable modes of transport).

8.49 Proposals that have unit sizes under 280sqm (gross) but comprise a number of units where the total floorspace of the proposal exceeds 280sqm (gross), and / or where the proposed uplift in floorspace of unit size(s) is under 280sqm but would create unit(s) over 280sqm (gross) as set out in paragraph 8.48, will also have to meet the requirements of Policy CEN6.

8.50 Proposals, (including paragraph 8.48, points a-c) whose unit size(s) are over 280sqm (gross) will have to meet the requirements of Policy CEN6.

8.51 This policy can contribute to achieving priorities such as promoting the health and well-being of local communities (Policy HW1 point k).

8.52 For the purposes of applying the criteria, nearby centres include those centres whose catchment areas overlap with the catchment area of the proposal, with 400m being a safe, convenient walking distance.

8.53 The strategy is for investment to be focussed in centres, with the priority for the existing network of centres to serve the Black Country's needs, particularly future growth identified housing and employment allocations (Policy CEN1 point 5). Therefore, strong justification is required for edge and out-of-centre schemes that could otherwise undermine the strategy for the regeneration of the Black Country and ensuring the vitality of centres. Requirement 2 in the policy notes that certain existing local facilities that are not in a centre provide an important service to a local area and will wherever possible be protected.

8.54 In making planning decisions, further guidance, such as hot food takeaway SPDs, are set out in Local Development Plans. Where planning permissions are granted effective planning conditions and /or planning obligations will be required to support the regeneration strategy and minimise impacts. Conditions should include, for example, clearly defining as specifically as possible the types and (sub)categories of uses that are acceptable and goods and service to be sold, unit sizes and sales areas, including relating to mezzanine floors, future sub-division of units and opening hours (Policy CEN1 point 6).
 

Evidence

  • Black Country Centres Study Main Report (March 2020) and Update (August 2021) (Lambert Smith Hampton)
     

Delivery

  • Development Management through the determination of planning applications; Local Development Plans; Black Country Local Authority projects; and sub-regional, regional, and national schemes and funding mechanisms.
     

Issues & Options Consultation

8.55 Views included that the current threshold is appropriate and in line with national guidance as long as the evidence base can show this, and that under the current local guidance even modest schemes would be unacceptable in out of centre locations. The LSH Centres study identifies that the Black Country's network of centres is facing challenges and in order to ensure their future vitality and viability significant adverse impacts need to be avoided, particularly as many centres serve the day-to-day needs of the local community. However, it is also acknowledged that an element of stand-alone provision within local communities can play and important role. Therefore, the options to retain the current 200sqm threshold or to remove local guidance, is balanced with a 280sqm threshold reflecting unit sizes that are not subject to trading restrictions and the new F2(a) Local Community use class, with clear criteria to determine applications.
 

Edge-of-Centre and Out-of-Centre Development

8.56 This policy applies to proposals not in a centre (in edge and / or out-of-centre locations), which have a proposed floorspace of over 280sqm (gross), as set out in Policy CEN1 Table 7 and paragraph 8.60.

8.57 The approach is intended to focus appropriate uses within the existing network of centres. Very limited existing and future capacity means that any growth not in centres can cause adverse impacts on them. This policy sets out robust requirements that will ensure that investment in centres is maximised and significant adverse impacts are prevented (Strategic Priority 9).
 

(1) Policy CEN6 - Edge-of-Centre and Out-of-Centre Development

  1. There is a clear presumption in favour of focusing appropriate uses (paragraph 8.3b) in centres.

    Sequential Test

     
  2. All edge-of-centre and out-of-centre proposals (as defined in paragraph 8.9) for centre uses (paragraph 8.3b) should meet the requirements of the sequential test set out in the latest national guidance.
  3. Edge and out-of-centre proposals should be assessed for accessibility by a choice of modes of transport, in particular public transport, walking and cycling, and support both social inclusion and cohesion, and the need to sustain strategic transport links. Edge of centre proposals will need to demonstrate that they will be well-integrated with existing in-centre provision.
  4. When assessing sequentially preferable locations, proposals will need to demonstrate flexibility in their operational requirements, particularly in terms of format and types of goods sold (paragraph 8.11).

    Impact Tests

     
  5. The locally-set floorspace thresholds for edge and out-of-centre retail and leisure proposals to meet the requirements of the Impact Assessment as set out in the latest national guidance is 280sqm (gross) (see Policy CEN1 Table 7). Impact tests should be proportionate to the nature and scale of proposals.
  6. Proposals should be informed by the latest available robust evidence.
  7. In making planning decisions, further guidance is set out in Local Development Plans.
  8. Where planning permissions are granted, effective planning conditions and / or planning obligations will be required to support the regeneration strategy and minimise adverse impacts (Policy CEN1 point 6).
  9. Proposals that include unit sizes under 280sqm (gross) will also have to meet the requirements of Policy CEN5 (paragraph 8.61).

 

Justification

8.58 The intention of CEN6 is to ensure that investment is focused in centres, with the priority for the existing network of centres to serve the Black Country's needs, particularly future growth identified housing and employment allocations (Policy CEN1 point 5). Therefore, strong justification is required for edge-of-centre and out-of-centre schemes that could otherwise undermine the strategy for promoting the regeneration of the Black Country and ensuring the vitality of centres.

8.59 The Centres Study identifies little capacity to support additional floorspace, which means proposals that do not serve centres are likely to adversely impact upon their vitality and viability. The regeneration strategy for centres is focussed on bringing vacant floorspace back into use, and a consolidated retail and leisure offer is essential to facilitate diversification through e.g. encouraging linked trips. Centres are also dependent on units such as supermarkets and convenience stores to anchor their retail and service offer. It is therefore a priority to protect and support this approach. Consequently, the impact of proposals for centre uses not in centres are a cause for concern. There is a need for an appropriately robust policy approach to ensure all potential options to focus development in centres are thoroughly explored, and proposals are tested for their potential significant adverse impacts on existing centres. This is particularly the case for large-scale out-of-centre speculative retail and/ or leisure proposals.

8.60 For the purposes of applying the Impact Assessment, 280sqm (gross) is the locally set threshold for undertaking impact tests on retail and leisure proposals as set out in national guidance in edge and out-of-centre locations (Policy CEN1 Table 7). This applies to new development, changes of use, variations of conditions, extensions to / increase the floorspace of existing unit(s) (e.g. through increasing sales areas, mezzanine floors) that would create outlets with floorspace over 280sqm (gross), and / or proposals whose unit sizes are under 280sqm but the total floorspace of the proposal is over 280sqm (gross) (see also paragraph 8.61), including;

a) proposals related to petrol filling stations and drive-through facilities;
b) proposals for ancillary retail and leisure uses under Policies EMP2 and EMP3;
c) where potential for an element of on-site provision of new local facilities are identified in Local Development Plans to serve the specific needs of future development, or in the exceptional circumstances where such proposals are brought forward through speculative planning applications (whereby the requirements of Policy HOU2 also have to be met particularly with respect to demonstrating high levels of accessibility by sustainable modes of transport).

8.61 There are instances where proposals will have to meet the requirements of both this policy (particularly the impact tests) and Policy CEN5 requirements such as where proposals have a floorspace uplift or unit sizes under 280sqm (gross) but total floorspace exceeds 280sqm (gross) (Policy CEN5 paragraphs 8.48 – 8.50).

8.62 Flexibility should be demonstrated when assessing potential in-centre locations, including in terms of specific types of goods & services and elements of the business models of proposals, such as 'drive through' facilities not necessarily needing to be outside a centre solely for vehicular access and circulation reasons.

8.63 It is important to ensure edge-of-centre proposals do not cause significant adverse impacts, particularly as they share catchment areas with in-centre provision. Edge-of-centre proposals should support regeneration through being well integrated, particularly through direct pedestrian linkages complementing and enhancing adjacent in-centre provision.

8.64 Impact tests should be proportionate to the nature and scale of proposals, and to assist with the determination of proposals should include as a minimum the estimated turnover and trade draw from relevant centres of the proposal. Additional evidence should include information regarding capacity, catchment areas, the health and existing retail commitments (paragraph 8.10).

8.65 In making planning decisions further guidance is set out in Local Development Plans. Where planning permissions are granted effective planning conditions and/or planning obligations will be required to support the regeneration strategy and minimise impacts. Conditions should include, for example, a clear definition of the types and (sub)categories of uses that are acceptable and the goods and service to be sold, the agreed details of unit sizes and the extent of sales areas, including in relation to to mezzanine floors, the potential future sub-division of units and the opening hours (as set out in Policy CEN1 point 6).
 

Evidence

  • Black Country Centres Study Main Report (March 2020) and Update (August 2021) (Lambert Smith Hampton)
     

Delivery

  • Development Management through the determination of planning applications; Local Development Plans; Black Country Local Authority projects; and sub-regional, regional, and national schemes and funding mechanisms
     

Issues & Options Consultation

8.66 There was general consensus that this policy is acceptable. The policy aims to ensure that appropriate uses are located within defined centres in the first instance to minimise the impacts of out-of-centre development on the vitality of centres. There was a view that under the current local guidance even modest schemes would be unacceptable in out-of-centre locations and the impact test threshold should revert to the default 2,500sqm in national guidance.

8.67 The LSH Centres study identifies that the Black Country's network of centres are facing challenges and in order to ensure their future vitality and viability future out-of-centre proposals need to be tested to avoid significant adverse impacts, particularly as little capacity is predicted to support additional floorspace. The option to retain a variety of thresholds or to adopt the national default, is balanced by having a clear threshold of 280sqm, which reflecting unit sizes that are not subject to trading restrictions and the new F2(a) Local Community use class. The policy emphasises that any impact tests should be proportionate to the scale and nature of proposals.
 

Monitoring

Policy

Indicator

Target

CEN1 - CEN6

Number / floorspace of applications determined / completions by location / use as reflected in LPA monitoring;

Number / % applications that meet the requirements of the policy

All applications/ planning permissions to meet policy requirements

 

 

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