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8. Local Shopping

8.1 This part of the Allocations and Designations Local Plan considers local shopping facilities and centres in the borough below the level of Bedford town centre, and sets out appropriate policies for their protection. Policies for the town centre are contained in the Bedford Town Centre Area Action Plan. These policies are directed primarily at protecting essential local shopping facilities which meet day-to-day needs.

8.2 The National Planning Policy Framework recognises the importance of local shopping facilities to the local community which provide for people’s day-to-day needs. Local authorities should seek to protect existing facilities in local centres and villages and seek to remedy identified deficiencies in local shopping.

8.3 Below the level of Bedford town centre, the retail hierarchy set out in the Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan (Policy CP20) is:


  • Kempston (district centre).
  • Growth Area key service centres (Stewartby, Wootton, Wixams) and other Growth Area local centres (local centres).
  • Rural key service centres (Bromham, Clapham, Great Barford, Harrold, Sharnbrook, Wilstead) (local centres).
  • Other defined retail centres.

8.4 It could be considered that below the bottom tier in the hierarchy there are also undefined retail centres and/or individual shops.

District Centre

8.5 For Kempston district centre the policy aim is to protect those features which distinguish it from other centres in the hierarchy. This will involve ensuring that development proposals are appropriate to the role of the centre and not at the expense of Bedford town centre. The diversity of uses should be protected to ensure that the centre’s vitality and viability is not affected by changes of use. The designated district centre boundary is shown on the Policies Map.


Policy AD29 Kempston District Centre – new retail facilities

Proposals for new retail facilities within the district centre will be supported if:


  1. New development would enhance the appearance of the district centre.
  2. New development will be of a scale and form which is appropriate to the convenience and service function of the district centre.
  3. The applicant can demonstrate that the scale and form of the development proposed and its function could not be more appropriately accommodated within Bedford town centre.
  4. The applicant can demonstrate that the proposals would not have an adverse impact on Bedford town centre.
  5. Satisfactory servicing and car parking facilities can be provided to avoid on-street congestion and to protect highway safety.
  6. The proposal will be accessible by a choice of means of transport other than the private car.


Policy AD30 Kempston District Centre – changes of use

In the designated district centre, the Council will only grant planning permission for the change of use from retail sales to other uses where the applicant can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Council that the vitality and viability of the centre would not be adversely affected and it will offer a range of everyday community, shopping and employment opportunities.


Local Centres

8.6 Local centres fulfil an important social as well as economic role, offering essential local facilities close to where people live and work. They minimise the need for people to travel, which is particularly important for those who are less mobile and do not have the use of a car. The Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan defines as local centres:


  • Growth Area key service centres (Stewartby, Wootton, Wixams).
  • Other Growth Area local centres.
  • Rural key service centres (Bromham, Clapham, Great Barford, Harrold, Sharnbrook, Wilstead).

8.7 Local centres are intended to serve local needs and therefore will generally be inappropriate locations for large-scale new development (larger than about 1,000 square metres net floorspace). It is recognised that the Wixams local centre, when completed, will be of a different character to most other local centres in the borough because of its permitted size. Outline planning permission has been granted for a total of 15,540 square metres gross class A1 retail floorspace, this being the amount that has been assessed as being needed to serve the anticipated population. Much of this will be located in a new ‘town’ centre, where a large supermarket and other retail units are planned, as well as in ‘village’ centres and at the proposed railway station.


Policy AD31 Local Centres – new retail facilities

Proposals for new shops within existing local centres or in existing or proposed new residential areas where there is a local need will be supported if the proposal is of a scale appropriate to the role and function of the local centre and is intended to principally serve the needs of the local community.


Designating Local Centres

8.8 As the policy approach in this Plan is directed primarily at protecting essential local shopping facilities which meet day-to-day needs, it is important that this is reflected in the way in which local centres are designated. An essential local shop is one with a small catchment of up to 10 minutes walking time (about half a mile) which sells convenience goods or ‘everyday’ services that are required frequently or on a day-to-day basis and has a floorspace of less than about 1,000 square metres net floorspace. The following types of shopping facility can be considered locally essential:


  • Food shops, such as: small supermarkets, butchers, greengrocers.
  • Newsagents and confectionery shops.
  • Pharmacies and chemists.
  • Cafés, restaurants, hot food takeaways and public houses.

8.9 For a local centre to be successful it should include a range of essential local shops, drawn from each of the four types listed above. In addition, it may include other non-essential local shops and small ‘non-local’ shops. This combination of a range of shops adds to the attractiveness of the local centre and allows linked trips to be made. The need to retain local centres is important because of the service they provide. They reduce the need for residents to travel and are particularly important for those with mobility difficulties or who do not have access to a car. Local shops are also valuable for ‘top-up’ shopping trips for mobile, car-owning households.

8.10 It would be unrealistic to only designate local centres that have all four of the essential local shop types. A local centre generally should contain at least three of the four essential local shop types. Some of these could be combined within a single shop unit. In addition, a centre should ideally contain several other non-essential local shops and services, such as a hairdresser, florist, post office counter etc.

8.11 The Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan defines Rural key service centres (Bromham, Clapham, Great Barford, Harrold, Sharnbrook, Wilstead) and Growth Area key service centres (Stewartby, Wootton) as local centres. The Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan recognises that Wixams also has the potential to become a key service centre. A description of the extent of each centre is given in the background paper. In some cases these centres do not contain a full range of retail facilities, nevertheless they have an importance in the retail hierarchy which underlines the importance of the facilities that they do possess.

8.12 Other Growth Area local centres meeting the qualification of a local centre include:


  • Ampthill Road (18 – 36, 13 – 17), Bedford
  • Ampthill Road (76 - 88), Bedford
  • Avon Drive, Bedford
  • Bedford Road (72 - 120), Kempston
  • Bedford Road / Bunyan Road, Kempston
  • Brickhill Drive, Bedford
  • Bromham Road, Bedford
  • Castle Road, Bedford
  • Church Lane, Bedford
  • Ford End Road, Bedford
  • Gostwick Road, Bedford
  • Harrowden Road, Bedford
  • High Street / St John’s Street, Kempston
  • Iddesleigh Road, Bedford
  • London Road, Bedford
  • Midland Road (west), Bedford
  • Orchard Street, Kempston
  • Putnoe Street, Bedford
  • Queen’s Drive, Bedford
  • St Mary’s Street, Bedford
  • Tavistock Street, Bedford
  • The Fairway, Bedford
  • Wendover Drive / Newnham Avenue, Bedford
  • Williamson Road, Kempston.

8.13 The extent of each centre is described in the background study, “Local Shopping in Bedford”, and is shown on the Policies Map. The boundaries of each centre can be seen more clearly on the Council’s on-line Policies Map as it is possible to change the viewing scale. Alternatively advice can be obtained by contacting the Council.

Changes of Use in Local Centres and Other Defined Retail Centres


Policy AD32 Local Centres and Other Defined Retail Centres

In Key Service Centres, Other Growth Area Local Centres (designated on the Policies Map) and Other Defined Retail Centres, the Council will only grant planning permission for the change of use of essential local shops to other uses when:


  1. Alternative essential local shops are available within the centre. In Key Service Centres and Other Growth Area Local Centres at least three different essential local shop types should remain available. In Other Defined Retail Centres at least one essential local shop type should remain available.
  2. The applicant can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Council that the current (or last) use is no longer economically viable (including in appropriate circumstances financial information); this can best be demonstrated by providing evidence that the property has been actively marketed.
  3. The applicant can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Council that the vitality and viability of the centre would not be adversely affected.

Essential local shops types are:
Type 1 - food shops, such as: small supermarkets, butchers, greengrocers.
Type 2 - newsagents and confectionery shops.
Type 3 - pharmacies and dispensing chemists.
Type 4 - cafes, restaurants, hot food takeaways and public houses.


8.14 Other defined retail centres are of lesser importance than local centres and generally should contain at least one of the four essential local shop types, together with several other nonessential local shops. Other defined retail centres meeting this definition include:


  • within the Bedford Growth Area: Chiltern Avenue, Bedford
  • within the rest of the borough: Turvey.

8.15 A description of the extent of each centre is given in the background study.

Undefined Retail Centres and Individual Shops

8.16 Undefined retail centres are groupings of shops which either cannot be considered essential or are otherwise not sufficient in number to comprise a defined retail centre. Individual shops vary considerably and may not be essential or local. However where individual shops sell essential goods and are in an area not well served by local centres, they can be particularly important to the local community. This particularly will be the case if they are the only essential local shops within 10 minutes walking time (about half a mile). In many villages the last remaining shop or public house has a special social function beyond the actual service provided and they should be protected for their importance to the local community wherever possible. Those proposing to change the use of local public houses may find it helpful to seek the advice of organisations such as the Plunkett Foundation and ‘Pub is the Hub’ which encourage rural pub owners, licensees, and local communities to work together to support, retain and locate services within community shops and pubs which can often improve the viability of the business itself.


Policy AD33 Individual Shops and Undefined Retail Centres

The Council will only grant planning permission for the change of use of individual essential local shops (not within a defined centre) to other uses when:


  1. There are other essential local shops within 10 minutes walking time (half a mile) providing a similar service.
  2. The applicant can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Council that the current (or last) use is no longer economically viable (including in appropriate circumstances financial information); this can best be demonstrated by providing evidence that the property has been actively marketed.

Essential local shops are: food shops, such as: small supermarkets, butchers, greengrocers; newsagents and confectionery shops, pharmacies and dispensing chemists; cafes, restaurants, hot food takeaways and public houses.


8.17 For the preceding policies where evidence of active marketing is required, guidance on carrying out a marketing exercise and presenting marketing information is given in Appendix 1. Although this relates to employment sites, many of the principles also apply to the marketing of retail premises and sites. The Council will consider evidence other than marketing evidence in appropriate circumstances. Certain organisations with regular experience of considering viability issues should be able to satisfy the Council’s requirements with their normal appraisal evidence, which should be submitted to the Council.

All Shop Units

8.18 Whilst the emphasis of local shopping policy is on protecting essential local shopping facilities which meet day-to-day needs, non-essential shops also have a value. This is not so much to do with the service they provide, but concerns their potential to be occupied in the future by an essential shop. Without any protection of the physical unit, it might be converted to a residential or other non-retail use making it less likely to revert to retail. This does not mean that all non-essential shops should always be preserved. The value of such shop units, in terms of the opportunity to improve the sustainability of our communities, largely depends on their being located where there is a need for further essential local shops. This could be in any village or part of the urban area where there is an under-provision of local shopping facilities or where a local centre is small relative to the area it serves. The potential of such premises to fulfil such a role can be assessed against a general criteria-type policy.


Policy AD34 All Shop Units

The Council will only grant planning permission for the change of use of a shop unit within Classes A1 to A5 of the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as subsequently amended) to a use outside of these Classes when evidence provided by the applicant shows that there is no under-provision of local shopping facilities in that area, taking account of the potential role and function of the shop unit or centre in the retail hierarchy.



All Shop Units

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