Greater Nottingham Strategic Plan - Growth Options Consultation (July 2020)

Greater Nottingham Strategic Plan Growth Options

Chapter Seven The City and Town Centres


7.1  This chapter considers how we should protect and enhance our City, Town and District Centres. The issues include: whether the current network and hierarchy of centres remains appropriate; how best to help our City and Town Centres to adapt to changing shopping habits and other behavioural changes; whether local impact thresholds should be set to protect retail centres; and if so, to define what these thresholds should be and what the reasons would be for applying such thresholds.

7.2  Paragraph 85 of the NPPF requires that planning policies should support the role that town centres play at the 'heart' of local communities, by taking a positive approach to their growth, management and adaptation. In particular, planning policies should define a network and hierarchy of town centres and promote their long-term vitality and viability. Policies should allow them to grow and diversify in a way that can respond to rapid changes in the retail and leisure industries, allow a suitable mix of uses (including housing) and reflect their distinctive characters.


7.3  The Plan will aim to maintain and enhance the vitality and viability of the City and Town Centres through an improvement of the facilities on offer, including retail, housing, leisure and social facilities.

7.4  Modern consumer behaviour in the UK has become far more complex over recent years. We are increasingly shopping in different ways and buying from a variety of different channels and locations dependent on where we are in the day and what we are doing. Buying patterns are also driven by convenience; there is now a diverse range of shopping opportunities, whether it is at the local level, town centres, out of town, online, TV shopping, mobile shopping etc., and the choices are increasing all the time. These shopping habits have impacted on our City and Town Centres, which have had to adapt and change to attract and retain visitors. This has led to an increase in their leisure offer, especially in the food and drink sector, but also in terms of their broader leisure economy, and increasingly town centres are becoming desirable places to live for some sections of the community.

The Network and Hierarchy of Centres

7.5  In addition to the City Centre, Greater Nottingham is served by a diverse range of distinctive Town, District and Local Centres, all of which serve important roles in meeting the various needs of its many neighbourhoods. The current network and hierarchy of centres is as set out within Figure 7.1:

Figure 7.1: Greater Nottingham Network and Hierarchy of Centres

Greater Nottingham Network and Hierarchy of Centres

City Centre

Nottingham City Centre

Town Centres

Arnold, Beeston and Bulwell

District Centres*

Bingham, Clifton, Eastwood, Hyson Green, Kimberley, Stapleford, Sherwood and West Bridgford.

[Below these are 'Local Centres'[1] and 'Centres of Neighbourhood Importance', which are currently defined in Part 2 Local Plans].

*In addition, 'Hucknall' in Ashfield District,is a major district centre which draws Gedling Borough residents from the adjoining local area.

7.6  The existence of the network and hierarchy is intended to help guide new development to appropriately-sized centres across Greater Nottingham and ensure that future growth is adequately balanced across the area.

7.7  In order to create sustainable places, new retail development of an appropriate scale, as identified through masterplans, may be required to support proposed areas of growth. In most instances, these are likely to be Centres of Neighbourhood Importance rather than larger centres.

7.8  As a result of changing conditions and consumer behaviour, there may need to be changes to the network and hierarchy of centres. This may take the form of additions to the hierarchy, promotion of centres, identification of those in need of enhancement, and re-classification of those that provide limited retail, service and leisure facilities and no longer perform a 'centre' function. In all cases, the aim will be to ensure that residents will still have access to amenities in proximity to these centres.

1. ‘Local Centres’ are listed in policies contained within respective Part 1 Local Plans, but defined in respective Part 2 Local Plan Policies Maps (with the exception of Broxtowe’s Local Plan). [back]

Question CTC1: The Network and Hierarchy of Centres

  • Do you think the network and hierarchy of centres set out within Figure 1 remains appropriate?

Nottingham City Centre and the Town and District Centres

Nottingham City Centre

7.9  Nottingham City Centre has many strengths, assets and history, and our aim as set out in the emerging City Centre Strategy[2], is for it to be the number one retail destination and economic hub in the East Midlands. It is a successful regional centre which is adapting well to changes in retail trends. The recent 2019 Retail Vitality Index[3] from Harper Dennis Hobbs lists Nottingham City Centre as the best ranked centre in the East Midlands.

7.10  The Plan will aim to maintain and enhance Nottingham City Centre's role as a regional destination and a great place for shopping, heritage and increasingly leisure and the night time economy. It is important to continue to enhance the City Centre's 'quality of place' so it can compete against the internet and other shopping options. This means promoting good design and respecting heritage and green spaces.

7.11  The existing retail policy currently identifies 'primary areas' with the most protection for shops. The Government has introduced flexibility for retail and service uses to change between these uses without needing planning permission. The Plan will need to consider how to maintain the character of these areas as shopping streets with this greater flexibility.

7.12  Future needs for major shops, cafes / bars / restaurants, leisure and cultural facilities will be focussed in the City Centre. Shops and other main town centre uses should be located within the existing shopping area where sites are available in order to support the ongoing vitality and viability of the City Centre. If no sites are available, they should then instead be located within 'edge of existing centre' sites, well linked to the shopping area, to ensure overall needs are met.

7.13  The visitor economy is an important contributor to Nottingham City Centre's vitality and viability, and the significant improvements to Nottingham Castle[4] to create a world-class visitor attraction and the leisure-focused redevelopment of intu Broadmarsh, together with the associated upgraded public realm, are expected to increase visitor numbers. There may be opportunities to further enhance Nottingham as a visitor destination, for instance at Broadmarsh West and at the Island Quarter.

7.14  Nottingham City Centre is increasingly a popular location for people to live, with a particular focus on both the Private Rented Sector and students. As well as being a highly accessible and sustainable location for new homes, this helps support its vitality and viability, and there is a significant pipeline of planned residential development.

Town and District Centres

7.15  Town Centres are often the principal centre or centres in a local area and include primary shopping areas and provide a range of facilities and services. District Centres usually comprise groups of shops, often containing at least one supermarket, and a range of non-retail services. Local Centres usually include a range of small shops of a more local nature serving a small catchment whilst Centres of Neighbourhood Importance typically consist of small parades of shops of purely neighbourhood significance.

7.16  Our Town and District Centres should include provision for local shops, amongst other uses, in order to maintain their key function and role in the retail hierarchy and contribute to shorter, more sustainable journeys. However, retail requires co-location with complementary uses to sustain a thriving centre in respect of changing retail, leisure and economic trends. Therefore, some flexibility will need to be allowed to accommodate changes of use to alternative uses where appropriate.

7.17  Policies will need to make clear which uses will be appropriate, in principle, in each type of centre and within the Primary Retail Frontage and other parts of the City Centre, whilst taking into consideration the current flexibility of the Government's Use Class categories and that some modern business models are more fluid than this. Such policies will recognise that appropriate residential development can contribute to the vitality of centres.

7.18  Town Centres have the potential to play a significant role within the local economy. Offices can play a role in creating diverse centres, and a strong network of linked centres around the area will support economic growth. Opportunities of an appropriate scale, to add to existing, or provide new sources of local employment should be encouraged.

7.19  It is also considered important that all centres continue to act as a focus for community life, where residents can live and socialise, in order to help strengthen social cohesion. To maintain this, it is vital to preserve, and where needed, add to the diverse range of facilities already present within them. This is essential in ensuring the continued vibrancy and prosperity of centres, particularly in challenging ever changing economic circumstances.

Question CTC2: Nottingham City Centre and the Town and District Centres

  • How can we help our City, Town and District Centres to adapt to changing shopping habits and other behavioural changes?

Acceptable Uses on the Edge or Outside of Centres

7.20  The NPPF advocates a 'town centre first' approach, giving preference to sites within or well connected to the town centre, then 'edge of centre' locations provided that sites are well connected to the centre, before consideration of out of centre proposals.

7.21  An important consideration is also the individuality of town centres in terms of competition, consumer choice and diversity. Where town centres are in decline, future economic activity should be encouraged. Residential developments and bringing vacant floorspace above shops back into use can make a significant contribution to the enhancement of town centre locations and offer opportunities for supporting regeneration and increasing footfall at different times of the day.

7.22  In the comparison goods sector, retailers are seeking fewer, larger stores, with space for click and collect facilities and their associated parking demands. However, to ensure the continued viability of Town Centres, one option is to continue to include a policy in the Plan which sets criteria concerning the information and assessment requirements for edge of centre and out of centre retail and leisure proposals.

7.23  A 'Quality of Centres' study is to be commissioned for Greater Nottingham and this will include a health-check of centres and consider the scope for managing the enhancement of centres.

7.24  Some Part 2 Local Plans include local impact assessments[5]. The use of such local impact assessment thresholds for retail and leisure development would set a requirement for applicants to supply additional information for relevant proposals which would be triggered by lower thresholds than the default 2,500sq m gross threshold set by Government. This will increase the quality, level of detail and availability of relevant technical retail and leisure information for assessment for relevant proposals via the planning application process.

5. Further information can be found within government Planning Practice Guidance: [back]

Question CTC3: Acceptable Uses on the Edge or Outside of Centres

  • Should local impact thresholds be set to protect retail centres? If so, what should these thresholds be and why?