A wide range of planning policies local and national apply to a development of this scale. This briefing concentrates on town centre and retail polices.
National Planning Policy Framework
The national planning policy that applies is Section 2 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF23-27). This sets out the sequential test, which dictates that sites for large retail developments should first be sought in the town centre. If no suitable sites are available, then they should be sought on the edge of the town centre. Only if a site in not available in those locations, should an out of town site be considered.
The NPPF also says that where a retail site is not allocated in the local plan, as is the case at Rocks Green, an impact test must be applied (NPPF26). This requires the developer to assess “the impact of the proposal on town centre vitality and viability, including local consumer choice and trade in the town centre and wider area.”
The NPPF does not include a needs test, an assessment of whether an area is under supplied with retail facilities or lacks consumer choice (this existed in previous planning rules). Because of this, planners are not allowed to ask the question: “Is this supermarket needed?”
Shropshire’s Core Strategy also applies to this development. A full summary of the core strategy policies the developer thinks are relevant is given in the Planning and Retail Statement (5.58).
Policy CS15 for town centres confirms that the sequential test applies. It says that Ludlow will act as a principal centre “to serve local needs and the wider service and employment needs of communities within their respective spatial zones. Appropriate convenience and comparison retail, office, and other town centre uses will be permitted to support these roles.”
Note that this says “town centre uses”, not that the uses have to be in the town centre (see the sequential test).
South Shropshire Local Plan
Until SAMDev is in place, the South Shropshire Local Plan adopted by the former district council provides the definition of the town centre (SAMDev does not propose any changes to the town centre area). The map below shows that Tesco and the Co-op are within the town centre but Aldi is edge of centre.
The Planning and Retail Statement for the supermarket says “Tesco and Aldi stores on Station Drive [are] located outside of Ludlow town centre” (6.8). I can’t see they are right to state that Tesco is outside the town centre. It is inside the town while Aldi is edge of centre.
South Shropshire Local Plan: town centre area in blue
Shropshire’s Site Allocations and Management of Development document is currently being examined the planning inspectorate (details). At this stage (January 2015), the current version of SAMDev is described as “emerging” because the examination is not complete and it is subject to challenge by developers, largely over housing sites. This means that planners can only give the document limited weight in planning decisions. However, there has been no significant challenge to the retail polices in SAMDev, which build on those in the Core Strategy and are in line with the NPPF.
Policy S10.1.4 in SAMDev says:
To support Ludlow’s role as a Principal Centre, new main town centre uses will be focussed within the defined town centre area and Primary Shopping Area identified on the Polices Map, and will be subject to Policies CS15 and MD10.
Under SAMDev policy MD10, Ludlow is a Category B town centre. Policy MD10a says:
2b. In Category ‘B’ Centres:
i. There is a presumption in favour of retail (A1) proposals in ground floor premises within Primary Shopping Areas
ii. Other main town centre uses will be acceptable in Primary Shopping Areas where it can be demonstrated the proposal would maintain an active and continuous frontage and would not result in an over concentration or undue dominance of non-retail uses.
iii. Proposals for non-town centre uses in Primary Shopping Areas will be resisted unless they would support the regeneration of the town centre
iv. There is a presumption in favour of proposals for main town centre uses within the wider Town Centre.
SAMDev uses the same definition for the town centre area as the South Shropshire Local Plan. It additionally defines streets which in Ludlow’s “primary shopping area”. Tower Street has been withdrawn from the primary shopping area since the map below was published.
Under Core Strategy policy CS15, Ludlow is classified as a principal centre. SAMDev policy MD10b says:
Applicants will be required to prepare Impact Assessments for new retail, leisure and office proposals where they are located outside a defined town centre, or are more than 300 meters from a locally recognised high street or village centre; and… have a gross floorspace above… 300 sq metres.