Greater planning protection for local shops echoing safeguards common in France has been urged by a report from the London Assembly.
The report, by the Planning and Housing Committee, calls on the Mayor to make changes to the London Plan to strengthen protection for local shops and give boroughs more power to resist or negotiate on planning applications from big retailers.
Central to these proposals would be a revision of the Use Classes Order (UCO) which would make it harder for shops like butchers and greengrocers to be changed into outlets like internet cafes and betting shops.
The report has recommended that London Mayor Boris Johnson should lobby the Government to amend the UCO. The Assembly said the existing A1 Class should be separated so that essential “retail” shop uses such as grocers, bakers, butchers, and newsagents are treated separately from other more “service” based uses. Such a change would mean that planning permission would be required for any change of use between these categories.
The Assembly also wants the London Plan revised to make it explicit that boroughs should support local neighbourhood shops as essential parts of the “lifetime neighbourhood”.
In addition, the report stressed that any supplementary planning guidance on retail policy should give borough planning committees support to confront developments that would threaten the viability and diversity of small and local shopping centres.
The proposals have been given a cautious welcome by the British Property Federation.
Chief executive Liz Peace said: “The industry is committed to helping the Government effectively deliver its localism agenda and we have always been very supportive of ensuring a mix of fascias on the high street.
“Allowing councils to dictate the mix of their central retail offering seems a very sensible way of ensuring communities can have the right mix of local shops. But we need to be realistic in that a new planning class won’t save unviable businesses.”
Access the press release and report
29 July 2010