Section five

Town centres and local facilities

Our city and town centres are at the heart of community life and form an important part of the district’s identity and character. They provide a range of key services and offer spaces for our communities to meet and interact. Vibrant and prosperous town centres are essential to the local economy; offering a base for businesses and jobs and attracting growth and investment into the wider area.

In recent years, our town centres have faced many challenges like competition from out-of-town retail centres and the rise of online shopping. Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has effectively shut down high streets and might accelerate consumer behaviour changes towards preferring to shop online. Although their role as shopping destinations are still very important, the centres will increasingly become the focal point for leisure, social and community activities.

Local shops and facilities in our neighbourhoods and villages play an important role in meeting local day-to-day needs of residents, including the elderly and other vulnerable groups. The ability to access local services has also been under increased focus through the COVID-19 pandemic, and we want to make sure that communities across the district have easy access to a range of services and facilities in their local area.

Through the consultation and engagement so far we know that these issues are also really important to our communities, and we’ve prepared options for how we should approach these issues through the new Local Plan.

Draft strategies for each of our city and town centres are set out in the earlier section of this consultation, so in this section we’re asking about how out-of-town retail areas might change and how we can support local and village centres.

Designating the hierarchy of centres in the district

Retail facilities are an important part of people’s lives and contribute significantly to the district’s economy. Achieving the right balance of quality, quantity, and distribution of retail facilities is important and the new Local Plan will need to make sure that development proposals are appropriate to their location. There are a number of shopping centres in the district which vary in size and the range of shops and support services they provide.

National planning policies make it clear that Local Plans should define a network and hierarchy of town centres and promote their long term vitality and viability by allowing them to grow and change in a way that supports a diverse retail offer, provides customer choice, allows a suitable mix of uses (including housing) and reflects their distinctive characters.

This hierarchy is important as national planning policies require a logical approach, where first preference for town centre uses should be for town centre sites, followed by edge-of-centre sites and only then out-of-town sites. This recognises the importance of town centres as locations to access services, shop, work and live.

The current hierarchy of centres in the district is set out in TCL(A) – Hierarchy and Network in the Local Plan. This hierarchy is based on a range of criteria, including the size of the centre, the quantitative and qualitative range of retail and other uses, as well as its role in meeting the wider economic, civic, social and cultural needs of the district’s residents and visitors.

The updated Retail and Leisure Study (RLS) (2020) undertook a review of the retail network and hierarchy, taking into account the evidence gathered through the health checks and household survey. It concluded that the current hierarchy should be carried forward into the new Local Plan:

  • City/sub-regional centre
    • Canterbury, supported by other Canterbury retail locations:
      • Wincheap industrial estate
      • Riverside retail park
      • Marshwood industrial estate
      • Stour and Maybrook retail parks
  • District centre
    • Herne Bay
    • Whitstable

Local village centres are covered later in this chapter.

Many people recognise the changing nature of our town centres and the challenges they face, particularly in light of the impacts of COVID-19.

Some concerns were raised about the need to promote more flexibility with the town centres, to support a greater mix of uses and events, and also to avoid too much out-of- town retail which can affect the numbers of people who visit our town centres.

Issue TCLF1. How should we designate the hierarchy of centres in the district?

Option TCLF1A – amend the existing hierarchy of centres

This option would involve making adjustments to the existing hierarchy; for example to include additional other retail locations. Comments on potential changes are invited through the consultation, but the existing evidence doesn’t suggest that changes are necessary.

Option TCLF1B (preferred option) – keep the existing hierarchy of centres

This option would carry forward the existing hierarchy set out above into the new Local Plan. This is recommended by the RLS which found that the existing categorisation is still fit for purpose.

Supporting appropriate growth and development at out-of-town retail areas in Canterbury

The historic nature of Canterbury city centre means that opportunities for it to grow and expand are limited, and so the nearby retail locations at Wincheap and Sturry Road perform a complementary role, particularly for retailers that need large building footprints or sell bulky goods.

As the nature of the city centre evolves over the period of the Local Plan to 2040, we can expect a range of pressures at these out-of-town retail areas.

The RLS reviewed these areas and recommended that they continue to be designated for their complementary role to the city centre. The RLS also updated our evidence for the need for retail floorspace over the period of the new Local Plan.

Using various assumptions including:

  • estimated increases in population
  • retail expenditure and internet shopping
  • analysis of shopping market shares by centre and facilities and
  • estimates of the amount of additional convenience and comparison goods shopping turnover

the RLS forecasts retail floor space requirements up to 2040.

The floorspace capacity calculations show a clear need for additional convenience floorspace. However, there was little need for additional comparison (non-food) floorspace. In fact there was a small surplus forecast in 2035. The results of the forecast are summarised below:

GoodsFloorspace need 2035Floorspace need 2040

Convenience

4,140 sqm

6,307 sqm

Comparison

-4,175 sqm

2,067 sqm

The RLS reflects national planning guidance to identify the type of retail floorspace needed, looking at least ten years ahead. However, the study also advised that these forecasts must be treated with caution given the uncertainty over the actual delivery of housing and economic growth and the potential issues with projecting retail needs so far into the future. These forecasts might also change again when we update this evidence to account for the impacts of COVID-19 later this year.

These forecasts indicate a significant reduction in the levels of floorspace needed from the current Local Plan, which allocates the Wincheap retail area for the delivery of 33,800 sqm comparison retail. This presents a clear opportunity to reconsider the approach to supporting the vitality and viability of these important areas.

People were clear that the town centres should have a range of uses including leisure and cultural uses. Some people recognised the changing nature of town centres would mean less demand for retail and likely need for other uses such as leisure and culture. Others identified a current lack of leisure and hospitality uses in some centres.

Most people that commented on these areas thought that we should be looking to limit out-of-town retail. Others said that Wincheap had lost its identity and suggested redeveloping the site for housing or as an ecopark.

Issue TCLF2. How should we support appropriate growth and development at out-of-town retail areas in Canterbury?

Option TCLF2A – continue with current approach to development at the out-of-town areas

This option would see the existing approach rolled forward, with these areas focused mainly on retail provision and, to a lesser extent, leisure.

Any need for retail floorspace which can’t be accommodated in the city and town centres would be directed to Wincheap.

Option TCLF2B (preferred option) – provide greater flexibility for a range of uses in these areas, including residential development, and support expansion where appropriate

This option would consider opportunities for any need for retail floorspace which can’t be accommodated in the city and town centres to be rebalanced across the areas, to support further growth at Sturry Road.

As well as this, there would be greater flexibility to support a range of uses like leisure, offices and residential development to promote the growth and vitality of these areas, including extensions onto nearby land where appropriate.

Supporting and protecting our local centres

Local centres in the urban areas provide shops and services that play an important role in meeting local day-to-day needs of residents, including the elderly and other vulnerable groups, at a neighbourhood level.

They can provide a more sustainable alternative to larger supermarkets, are accessible on foot or by cycling, and contribute to reducing congestion and pollution. They can also boost local economic activity and employment and provide a focal point for our urban communities.

The Local Centre Survey Report (LCSR) (2021) updated our evidence on the local centres in the urban areas in the district, which are defined as clusters of at least three retail units, including a convenience store.

The LCSR recommended that all of the local centres designated in the current Local Plan are carried forward, and that some are expanded to make sure that properties in these areas which provide a service or facility for local residents are protected to support our communities. The existing local centres are:

  • Wincheap
  • Tankerton Road in Tankerton
  • Herne Bay Road/St Johns Road in Swalecliffe
  • Sea Street in Herne Bay
  • Canterbury Road in Herne Bay
  • Reculver Road in Beltinge
  • Faversham Road in Seasalter

Some other areas were identified in the LCSR as potential new local centres. These areas meet the criteria for the designation and the LCSR recommends that they are designated as local centres in the new Local Plan:

  • Zealand Road in Canterbury
  • Hawe Farm Way in Broomfield, Herne Bay
  • Poplar Drive in Greenhill, Herne Bay
  • Canterbury Road in Herne
  • St Dunstans in Canterbury

Many people said how important local facilities are to our communities and that these should be protected.

They also outlined how the services provided by local centres have been especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, as more people work from home and will walk to their local shops instead of going to town.

Stakeholders would like more local centres in the urban areas to support the day-to-day needs of our communities. Others would also like the use of leisure facilities to be included as part of local centres.

Issue TCLF3. How should we support and protect our local centres?

Wincheap, Canterbury

Option TCLF3A – keep the Wincheap local centre identified in the current Local Plan

This option would keep the current local centre boundary at Wincheap

Option TCLF3B – (preferred option) keep the Wincheap local centre with boundary changes suggested

This option would build on Option TCLF3A by extending the local centre boundary at Wincheap.  This would cover services identified by the LCSR. 

It would expand protection that already covers retails shops or other community uses to the new areas.

Tankerton Road, Tankerton

Option TCLF3C – change the boundary of the existing Tankerton Road local centre

Although the LCSR didn’t identify or recommend changes to the boundary, this option could remove some or all of the services from the designated area.

Option TCLF3D – (preferred option) keep the Tankerton Road local centre identified in the current Local Plan

This would keep the current local centre boundary at Tankerton Road

Herne Bay Road/St John’s Road, Swalecliffe

Option TCLF3E – keep the Herne Bay Road/St John’s Road local centre identified in the current Local Plan

This option would keep the current local centre boundary at Herne Bay Road/St John’s Road

Option TCLF3F – (preferred option) keep the Herne Bay/St John’s road local centre with boundary changes suggested

This option would build on option TCLF3E by extending the local centre boundary at Herne Bay Road/St John’s Road to include another three commercial units. 

Sea Street, Herne Bay

Option TCLF3G – keep the Sea Street local centre identified in the current Local Plan

This option would keep the current local centre boundary at Sea Street

Option TCLF3H – (preferred option) keep the Sea Street local centre with boundary changes suggested

This option would build on option TCLF3G by extending the local centre boundary at Sea Street to include another three commercial units. 

Canterbury Road, Herne Bay

Option TCLF3I – change the boundary of the existing Canterbury Road local centre

Although the LCSR didn’t identify or recommend changes to the boundary, it did highlight that there are services and facilities essential to meet the local need. This option could change the boundary to remove some or all of these services. 

Option TCLF3J – (preferred option) keep the Canterbury Road local centre identified in the current Local Plan

This option would keep the current local centre boundary at Canterbury Road

Reculver Road, Beltinge

Option TCLF3K – keep the Reculver Road local identified in the current Local Plan

This option would keep the current local centre boundary at Reculver Road. 

Option TCLF3L – (preferred option) keep the Reculver Road local centre with boundary changes suggested

This option would build on option TCLF3K by extending the local centre boundary at Reculver Road to include another three commercial units. 

Faversham Road, Seasalter

Option TCLF3M – change the boundary of the existing Faversham Road local centre

Although the LCSR didn’t identify or recommend changes to the boundary this option could remove some or all of these services.

Option TCLF3N – (preferred option) keep the Faversham Road local centre identified in the current Local Plan

This option would keep the current local centre boundary at Faversham Road

Zealand Road, Canterbury

Option TCLF3O – don’t make Zealand Road a local centre

This option would keep the current approach and not make Zealand Road a local centre.

Option TCLF3P – (preferred option) make Zealand Road a local centre

This option would protect shops and services at Zealand Road by designating it as a new local centre. View the boundary on a map

Hawe Farm Way, Broomfield in Herne Bay

Option TCLF3Q – don’t make Hawe Farm Way a local centre

This option would keep the current approach and not make Hawe Farm Way a local centre.

Option TCLF3R – (preferred option) make Hawe Farm Way a local centre

This option would protect the shops and services at Hawe Farm Way by designating it as a new local centre. View the boundary on a map

Poplar Drive, Greenhill in Herne Bay

Option TCLF3S – don’t make Poplar Drive a local centre

This option would keep the current approach and not make Poplar Drive a local centre.

Option TCLF3T – (preferred option) make Poplar Drive a local centre

This option would protect shops and services at Poplar Drive by designating it as a new local centre. View the boundary on a map

St Dunstans, Canterbury

Option TCLF3U – don’t make St Dunstan’s a local centre

The current approach doesn’t identify St Dunstan’s as an area as a local centre, but instead mentions it in current Local Plan policy.

Option TCLF3V – (preferred option) make St Dunstan’s a local centre

This option would protect the shops and services at St Dunstan’s by designating it as a new local centre. View the boundary on a map

Canterbury Road, Herne

Option TCLF3W – don’t make Canterbury Road a local centre

This option would keep the current approach and not make Canterbury Road in Herne a local centre.

Option TCLF3X – (preferred option) make Canterbury Road in Herne a local centre

This option would protect shops and services at Canterbury Road in Herne by designating it as a new local centre. View the boundary on a map.

Supporting our village centres

Services and facilities in our rural settlements can help rural communities to meet many of their day-to-day needs locally, and can be important to support the health and wellbeing of communities in the rural areas.

Not all settlements benefit from a wide range of services, and many of the smallest settlements have no services at all. Residents in the rural areas might need to travel to nearby larger villages to access important facilities.

Recent changes to the planning ‘use classes’ have reduced local authority power to protect some communities services.

Farm shops can provide another form of retail service for our rural communities, and often provide opportunities to buy local produce. We think that proposals for farm shops will continue to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

The Rural Settlement Study (RSS) (2020) updated our evidence for services and facilities at each of our rural settlements, and how this contributes to their sustainability. The most sustainable settlements – rural hubs and service centres – offer a range of key facilities like schools, GP surgeries, shops and community meeting places, which allow residents to meet many of their day-to-day needs in these settlements.

Nearby smaller settlements, local centres and villages will have fewer services, but still provide important facilities for residents, reducing their need to travel into the urban areas.

The RSS looked at how residents in the smaller settlements; including hamlets which have no facilities of their own, can access services in larger rural settlements, and identified a series of clusters of settlements, based around the rural service centres:

  1. Sturry and Hersden
  2. Chartham
  3. Bridge
  4. Littlebourne
  5. Blean

The RSS shows that many of our rural communities are well served by important services, either in their own settlements or nearby. These services and facilities contribute significantly to the sense of identity and play an important role in community life.

Unlike local centres or town centres, services and facilities in the rural settlements will not always be clustered together, and are often scattered across the built up area of the settlement.

Although it might not be possible to define village centres with a boundary in the same way, this collection of key services and facilities contribute significantly towards the sustainability of our rural settlements.

People supported protecting services and facilities in rural communities,as they provide essential services, particularly for people who do not drive.

Others said about a need to support rural hubs which are larger rural settlements that provide access to a wider range of services and facilities, like GP surgeries or primary schools.

This supports the findings of the RSS that identified six rural hubs or service centres which serve the population living there, as well as those living in other nearby settlements.

Issue TCLF4. How can we best support our village centres?

Option TCLF4A – continue with the current approach to services and facilities in the rural settlements

The current approach to rural services and facilities allows the use or extension of some existing buildings to provide convenience shops or other local services in most cases.

We also protect against the loss of existing community uses unless specific circumstances apply, for example where there is no longer a continuing demand for the use or facility.

Option TCLF4B – (preferred option) designate village centres to protect and improve existing services and facilities in the rural settlements

This would build on Option TCLF4A to designate village centres through the Local Plan; to promote new and improved services and facilities in or next to these settlements, similar to the approach at local centres in the urban areas.

In the more sustainable rural settlements in the district – the rural hub, service centres and villages – the key services and facilities would be protected from loss to other uses like residential unless specific circumstances apply, and the development of new facilities would be supported to maintain and improve the sustainability of settlements of the new Local Plan period to 2040.

Give us your views on town centres and local facilities