Development Management Policies DPD

Ended on the 30th April 2010
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Retail and Town Centres

(5) Vision

In five years…

  • Area Action Plans for Rochford, Rayleigh and Hockley town centres have been produced and adopted. The plans provide a clear framework, developed having regard to the results of community involvement, to guide the regeneration of these centres.

By 2025…

  • The District’s town centres are vibrant places containing a range of shops, services and facilities that meet local demand.
  • The vast majority of new retail development has been directed to Rochford, Rayleigh and Hockley. Some additional retail has been provided within the District’s smaller settlements and within residential areas outside of the designated centres which provides convenient, accessible top-up shopping for local communities and reduces the need to travel.
  • The leakage of retail expenditure outside of the District has been significantly reduced, with shoppers attracted to the District’s town centres not simply due to the provision of retail, but because of the range of activities and the quality of the environment.

(5) Objectives

  1. Direct retail development to the District’s town centres of Rochford, Rayleigh and Hockley.
  2. Enhance the centres of Rochford, Rayleigh and Hockley ensuring they are vital and vibrant places containing a range of uses and activities for all.
  3. Reduce the leakage of retail expenditure out of the District.
  4. Ensure that village and neighbourhood shops provide a service for local communities, particularly for those with limited access to transport.


Creating the appropriate retail mix in the District’s commercial centres to enhance the retail offer and increase spending retention, whilst ensuring the needs of all local communities are met, is a challenge. The emerging Core Strategy details the Council’s overarching approach to retail enhancement within town, village and neighbourhood centres. In particular it focuses on the current performance of the District’s three main town centres and the potential opportunities that they present. Rayleigh, Hockley and Rochford are important local commercial centres with distinct characteristics and different retail offers, which would significantly benefit from some enhancements. The emerging Core Strategy identifies the general outcomes which should be delivered within these three areas through the emerging Area Action Plans. 

In addition to retail, it is important that town centres contain a variety of uses, such as leisure, residential and community development, in order to ensure that they are vital and vibrant spaces. Whilst it is important for town centres to contain a core of attractive retail uses, it is recognised that town centres are dynamic environments and their management should reflect changing local circumstances, for example changes in consumer demand and the local economy.

This chapter further details the management of retail development within the District, with regard to the mix of appropriate uses, meeting the needs of local communities and respecting the character of the built environment. Thriving and sustainable town centres are important within the District to retain local expenditure and prevent leakages into other neighbouring town centres, thus, it is crucial that they have at their core a predominance of attractive retail uses. The Council seeks to support the continued vitality of the District’s commercial centres through the development and implementation of Area Action Plans.

Development of the commercial centres, however, must respect the character of the locality and the local businesses currently operating there, and the siting of advertisements must have regard to the appearance and desirability to preserve and enhance Conservation Areas and Listed Buildings, as appropriate.

Town Centres

(2) Town Centre Shopping Frontages

We are currently preparing Area Action Plans for the each of the District’s town centres. These Plans will be site specific and contain detailed policies to ensure the balance of appropriate uses and direct positive enhancements for each commercial centre, including specifying the suitable mix of retail and non-retail uses and enhancing accessibility to ensure vibrancy and vitality. However whilst the town centre Area Action Plans will have specific planning policies it is necessary to have an overarching policy which ensures the appropriate mix of retail and non-retail uses within each of the town centres.

It is considered necessary to retain and encourage a balanced mix of uses within the District’s town centres to cater for a variety of user needs. Whilst we want to retain the dominance of A1 uses (retail) with some A2 uses (financial and professional services) within core shopping frontage areas, we also want to encourage other complementary uses to ensure a greater combination of uses and enhance the local appeal of these retail centres. To ensure the right balance between retail and non-retail use is achieved, regard must be had to shifts in consumer preferences and market changes.

If a unit within a town centre is vacant for a length of time and cannot be used for retail purposes, either through a lack of demand for that retail use or economic viability reasons, then an alternative use may be appropriate. Other complementary uses may include A3 use (restaurants and cafes) which will enhance the day and evening economy within town centres through providing wider benefits such as utilising the public realm with tables on pavements, as in some areas of the town centres the pavement is quite wide and often under-utilised.

Whilst encouraging appropriate non-retail uses within the District, such as banks, building societies and restaurants, we will endeavour to ensure that the effect of dead frontage is minimised by requiring that such premises continue to use shop windows for display purposes. Where a non-retail use is proposed (such as A2, A3, A4, A5, sui generis or B1 uses) for ground floor locations in core shopping frontages, we will have regard to the appropriateness of the use and the uses already present in the frontage. The proposal should not lead to or add to a concentration of non-retail uses in an individual frontage or parade.

Non-retail uses should not result in the loss of any independent means of accessing the upper floors of the building, and so preventing their beneficial use as self-contained living accommodation, or for other appropriate purposes.

In considering the appropriate mix of retail and non-retail development, we will have regard to evidence provided by the most up-to-date Retail and Leisure Study for the District available.

(1) DM29 Town Centre Shopping Frontages – Preferred Option

The frontages within Rayleigh, Hockley and Rochford’s Primary Shopping Areas will comprise predominantly A1 retail use.

The change of use of shopping frontages for non-retail purposes (in particular A3 use which includes restaurants and cafes), which make a positive contribute to the vibrancy and vitality of the town centres will be permitted providing that:

  1. the proposal would not have a detrimental impact on, or undermine, the dominance of A1 use businesses within the retail centre;
  2. the proposal would not create a cluster of similar non-retail businesses within the locality; and
  3. the proposal would positively contribute to the retail/non-retail offer and encourage people into the town centre.

DM29 Town Centre Shopping Frontages – Alternative Options

Option Why is it not preferred?
Maintain a restrictive approach to non-retail use within town centres as per the 2006 Replacement Local Plan, aiming for no more than 25% of frontage to be occupied by non-retail development within town centres. It is important to maintain a flexible approach to uses within town centres to ensure their vibrancy and vitality. Introducing complementary uses to the existing retail offer is necessary to create a balanced environment which will increase footfall and the variety of uses throughout the day. Particularly in the current economic climate it is important to encourage an appropriate mix of uses within the town centre and limit the amount of dead frontage as appropriate.
Let the market determine the mix of town centre uses. This is considered inappropriate because such an uncoordinated approach may lead to a combination of uses which undermines the vitality and vibrancy of the town centres. It would not ensure that an appropriate mix of uses, which meets the needs of local communities.

Upper Floor Locations in Town Centres

Town centres are important focal points for the local community which can provide both commercial and residential functions. Commercial premises in town centres with vacant units above present an ideal opportunity to increase the numbers of people living within sustainable locations, contributing towards the District’s housing requirements. The conversion of upper floors in town centre locations, however, should have regard to potential additional leisure or retail uses which could be suitably located within the unit. Where such uses are not appropriate or it can be satisfactorily demonstrated that there is a lack of demand within the local area, then residential conversion should be permitted. A change of use should not result in a net loss of leisure or retail use within the town centre. 

Encouraging the use of units above shops for residential purposes, where appropriate, has the benefit of providing additional housing in appropriate locations, increases natural surveillance, contributes to regeneration, and promotes sustainable utilisation of town centres which reduces the pressure on greenfield sites, whilst satisfying the demand for such locations. It is important, however, to ensure that the use of upper floors of commercial buildings in town centres for residential accommodation is within a suitable location with adequate access and servicing and does not negatively impact on the surrounding uses. Regard should be had to the air quality within town centre locations when proposing residential development, in particular to the designation of any Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs).

(1) DM30 Upper Floor Locations in Town Centres – Preferred Option

We will permit the use of the upper floors of shops and other commercial premises for residential purposes. However, residential development will only be permitted where this would not result in a net loss of leisure or commercial uses within town centre locations. Permission will be granted, where appropriate, to ensure that accommodation is self-contained and suitably located with separate access from the street and that such accommodation provides a satisfactory standard of residential convenience and amenity.

Where an Air Quality Management Area is designated, residential conversion of upper floor town centre locations will be restricted until the applicable air quality target is achieved.

(1) DM30 Upper Floor Locations in Town Centres – Alternative Option

Option Why is it not preferred?
Permit residential uses above ground floor level notwithstanding the loss of leisure uses. It is important to retain an appropriate mix of uses to maintain and enhance the vibrancy and vitality of the District’s town centres.

Village and Neighbourhood Shops

Village and Neighbourhood Shopping Frontages

The retention and enhancement of existing village and neighbourhood shops is essential within the District’s smaller settlements to ensure that the day-to-day needs of the local population are served. It may be appropriate, however, to change the use of premises to a use that would provide a similar service for local residents, or convert premises for alternative uses, where a lack of demand for the current use has been demonstrated. The proposed new use must be compatible with its location, due to their typically close proximity to residential properties. For example a change of use to A5 (hot food takeaways) may not be considered appropriate if adjacent to residential development.

We consider that it is important to retain and enhance small rows of shops in addition to parades of shops which perform the same function within the defined settlements.

(1) DM31 Village and Neighbourhood Shops – Preferred Option

We will seek to ensure that retail premises in village and neighbourhood shopping frontage areas outside town centres are retained.

The change of use of the ground floor of existing retail premises to non-retail use outside town centres will be permitted providing that the following conditions are met:

  1. the loss of the retail unit is justified because the unit is vacant or that an A1 retail use is not financially viable. In either case, applicants should be able to demonstrate that all reasonable attempts have been made to sell or let the premises for retail use, but without success;
  2. the proposed use would serve the day-to-day needs of local residents;
  3. the proposed use would not reduce the quality of life of residents living in the immediate vicinity of the premises, as a result of noise, disturbance, cooking smells, litter or other factors;
  4. the proposal would not result in the removal of any independent means of accessing the upper floor(s) of the premises or otherwise prevent an effective use being made of the upper floor(s); and
  5. where the proposal relates to premises with an existing shopfront, the shop window would continue to be used for display purposes.

DM31 Village and Neighbourhood Shops – Alternative Option

Option Why is it not preferred?
Take a more permissive approach to the loss of A1 uses in villages and neighbourhood shopping areas. Retail use is important to ensure the vitality and vibrancy of any shopping frontage and to meet the needs of local communities.

Advertisements in the District


(2) Advertising is necessary for the promotion and functioning of the District’s commercial activities, but a balance needs to be struck to ensure that this is not detrimental to the appearance or value of a particular streetscape or building(s).

Inappropriate signage which is poorly located, designed or excessively illuminated within the context of the surrounding area can detract from the visual amenity, character and quality of the local environment and may present, particularly with inappropriate illumination, a road safety hazard. Furthermore a proliferation of signage on one building or along one street can create a cluttered streetscene which can cause distractions and confusion for the general public.

The siting, design, scale, proportion, colour and materials of advertisements should therefore have regard to the character of and impact on the streetscene, individual building(s) or the wider area, and should make a positive contribution to the overall appearance of the streetscene.

(3) DM32 Advertisements – Preferred Option

The design and siting of advertisements throughout the District must have regard to the visual impact of the building(s) on which they will be displayed and the character of the surrounding area. Advertisements will be permitted, provided that they:

  1. do not add to visual clutter or detract from the visual amenity of the area;
  2. are appropriately designed and sited within the context of the area and well related to the building(s) to which they are attached;
  3. have had regard to the use of appropriate materials;
  4. do not generate an excess of signage which creates a cluttered streetscene;
  5. are of an appropriate size in relation to the building(s) or other advertisements within the area;
  6. are suitably illuminated without adding to light pollution or whose intensity does not affect visual amenity or road safety; and
  7. respect the architectural features of locally listed buildings.

DM32 Advertisements – Alternative Option

Option Why is it not preferred?
Do not have regard to the points listed above when determining the suitability of advertisements. It is important to consider the impact of advertisements on the amenity and character of the surrounding area.

Advertisements affecting Conservation Areas and Listed Buildings

Conservation Areas tend to relate to town and village centres, whose appearance is worthy of retention. Several of Rochford District’s designated Conservation Areas are valuable commercial centres, where significant commercial activities take place. These areas are, however, more sensitive to the presence, and in particular, the style of advertising employed. Many Conservation Areas encompass Listed Buildings whose character it is important to preserve and enhance as appropriate.

Advertisements will be kept to a minimum within Conservation Areas to ensure that they do not detract from the overall appearance of the Conservation Area and character of individual buildings. Advertisements proposed to be sited on Listed Buildings should have a positive impact on the character and appearance of the building and the wider area.

The appropriateness of advertisements such as illuminated signs, lettering and coloured fascias, window stickers and window displays in Conservation Areas, and on or near Listed Buildings, or within the overall context of the streetscene where it may create visual clutter, will be carefully assessed. Other external items which can impact on the character of Listed Buildings and buildings in Conservation Areas such as external roller shutters or illuminated signs are unlikely to be acceptable.

(2) DM33 Advertisements affecting Conservation Areas and Listed Buildings – Preferred Option

Advertisements will be permitted on Listed Buildings, in appropriate circumstances, where it can be demonstrated that adverse harm to the character or structure of the building would not result. Where permitted on Listed Buildings and in Conservation Areas, advertisements should adhere to the general preferred option as outlined above, and should be sensitive to the character of the area, visually unobtrusive, well designed and well located. Traditional wooden, painted fascias and hanging signs for example will be preferred to coloured plastic fascias and boxes.

Advertisements will be allowed provided that they respect the character of the building(s) on which they are to be sited and the surrounding area, and do not include:

  • prominent lettering, lighting, symbols, material or colour of fascia displays, window stickers, pavements signs and other signage;
  • internally illuminated or other projecting fascia signs;
  • prominent externally illuminated signs;
  • prominent blinds (especially external roller shutters) or window / door canopies.

Advertisements and other external items (especially illuminated signs, where permitted) should be unobtrusive and benefit rather than detract from the value of the Conservation Area and character of the Listed Building, such as spot lighting of hanging signs or other discreet forms of lighting.

The quantity of advertisements within Conservation Areas and on Listed Buildings will be kept to the minimum necessary to identify the building and its function in order to protect the appearance of the area and individual buildings as appropriate.

DM33 Advertisements affecting Conservation Areas and Listed Buildings – Alternative Option

Option Why is it not preferred?
Do not have regard to the impact of advertisements on the character and value of Conservation Areas or Listed Buildings. It is important to preserve and enhance the appearance of Conservation Areas and Listed Buildings.

Are there any other issues which should be addressed within this chapter?

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