Minister’s ‘restate’ Town Centre First Policy

From Annex A of Steve Quartermain’s Round Robin ketter today

Town Centre First policy

Town Centre First policy, as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework, makes clear that local authorities should 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. It requires applications for main town centre uses to 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. The Framework also sets out that when assessing large applications (if there is no locally set threshold, the default threshold is 2,500 sq m) for retail, leisure and office development outside of town centres, which are not in accordance with an up-to-date Local Plan, local authorities should require an impact assessment. Ministers wish to restate policy which makes clear that where an application fails to satisfy the sequential test or is likely to have significant adverse impact on the town centre as set out in the Framework, it should be refused. It is for local authorities to ensure that the sequential test and impact test have been properly applied, and that the “town centre first” approach has been followed.

This does not mean that out-of-centre development is necessarily inappropriate. Ministers would highlight the planning guidance Ensuring the Vitality of Town Centres and specifically draw authorities’ attention to the section: “How should the sequential test be used in decision-taking?”. This sets out the considerations that local authorities should take into account when determining whether a proposal complies with the sequential test, including that due regard should be given to the requirement to demonstrate flexibility. This includes whether the suitability of more central sites to accommodate the proposal has been considered and the scope for flexibility in the format and/or scale of the proposal. Guidance on applying the impact test can also be found under the above section and makes clear that the design year for impact testing should be selected to represent the year when the proposal has achieved a ‘mature’ trading pattern. This is conventionally taken as the second full calendar year of trading after opening of each phase of a new retail development, but it may take longer for some developments to become established.

Translation – we weakened it in the NPPF, but put some of it back in gyuidance, buit you havnt read guidance have you so RTFM

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