Suffolk Coastal First Draft Local Plan

4 Economy

4.1 Suffolk Coastal is a unique District which makes a significant contribution to local, national and international economies. It is important that the framework for land use set out in the Local Plan serves as an impetus to business growth and a strong and resilient District economy. Across the District, the main economic drivers of the Port of Felixstowe, Sizewell Nuclear Power Station and BT are to be supported, alongside opportunities for enterprises which support these sectors over the plan period. Maintaining a strong and prosperous local economy which supports existing enterprises whilst also encouraging new ventures is promoted through this Local Plan.

4.2 In September 2017, the Government published a national Industrial Strategy in the context of the UK leaving the European Union. The Industrial Strategy places emphasis on supporting businesses to create better, higher paid employment and self-employment throughout the United Kingdom with investment in the skills, industries and infrastructure of the future. The Industrial Strategy seeks to ensure that every part of the country realises its full potential. The New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership has an ambitious desire to drive business growth and productivity and build the skills to enable the economies of Norfolk and Suffolk to prosper, with a high performing, productive economy. The Local Plan has a key role in the implementation of the economic visions to enable Suffolk Coastal to realise its potential.

4.3 The East Suffolk Economic Growth Plan 2018-23 sets out a vision to 'focus on building business confidence and with it, both the capacity and ambition of our businesses to invest and grow.' The Local Plan is a key contributor to this vision through the identification of appropriate land, premises and opportunities for economic growth.

4.4 Evidence prepared identifies that between 2001 and 2016, employment grew by 13.4% in Suffolk Coastal and the District is expected to see an increase in the number of jobs over the Local Plan period to 2036[1] . Suffolk Coastal has economic ambitions and the Local Plan sets out how the main economic drivers in the District can be supported, as well as providing the opportunities and conditions for small enterprises to start and flourish in the District and create better, higher paid employment.

1. Ipswich Economic Area Sector Needs Assessment, September 2017 (Lichfields) [back]

Employment Areas

4.5 The District is home to a number of large scale strategic businesses such as the Port of Felixstowe, Sizewell Nuclear Power Station and BT Campus at Adastral Park and it is important that the Local Plan responds to their needs. Not only are these businesses large employers but they also have a positive impact on the supply chains and related commercial activities in both Suffolk Coastal and the neighbouring authorities of Babergh, Ipswich, Mid Suffolk and Waveney.

4.6 The local economy is also diverse, made up of many small and medium enterprises that collectively provide a variety of economic opportunities, jobs and services. Planning policies reflect that over the Local Plan period new businesses and business sectors will emerge, as experienced in recent years, with the emergence of creative businesses and film technologies at locations like Rendlesham which has boosted the number of enterprises in Suffolk Coastal.

4.7 The mixture of large scale strategic businesses alongside small and medium enterprises reflects the economic potential across the District. The Local Plan needs to ensure that the economy is able to prosper and grow with a combination of suitable sites for serviced employment land and supporting infrastructure.

4.8 To support the District's economy and realise the economic ambitions for the area as outlined in the Economic Strategy for Norfolk and Suffolk and the East Suffolk Economic Growth Plan, the Local Plan needs to identify and preserve a range of employment sites to achieve these ambitions. Previous Local Plans made a distinction between strategic and general employment areas. This Local Plan seeks to simplify these allocations as Employment Areas. Through simplifying the allocations, the Council believes it can facilitate business opportunities and growth on a variety of sites across the District to deliver the economic vision for the District.

4.9 To ensure this happens over the plan period, it is therefore essential that the Local Plan ensures a flexible supply of land for a variety of employment sectors, targeted at the needs of businesses operating across the District including the delivery of start up units. For example, Port related operations in locations well related to the Port of Felixstowe or film and creative industries emerging at Rendlesham. Through appropriate allocations, the Local Plan will encourage employment development on a range of established sites and premises across the District.

4.10 A variety of employment areas are identified to cater for the needs of all sectors in the District. Some of these are established sites with buildings and infrastructure already in place and covered by existing planning permissions or established lawful uses. The Local Plan allocates new strategic areas for employment uses close to the A14 at Felixstowe and at the Seven Hills junctions of the A12 and A14, as well as expecting some employment development to come forward alongside the development of the garden neighbourhoods at Saxmundham and Felixstowe. In other locations, the policies support new employment development within Settlement Boundaries, along with appropriate development in the countryside, such as through conversions and farm diversification schemes.

Policy SCLP4.1: Employment Areas

Employment Areas are identified on the Policies Map.

Within these Employment Areas, proposals involving the redevelopment or change of use of employment premises to other employment uses will be supported and encouraged over the plan period. Appropriate uses within Employment Areas will normally be B1, B2 and B8 unless specifically identified, or are required by exception, for business operation reasons.

Other ancillary uses (including cultural and tourism uses) which fall outside of these B type uses may be appropriate within the Employment Areas where the primary purpose is to provide a service to the businesses and employees operating in that location.

Exceptionally, quasi-retail uses (not falling within use class A1) may be permitted on the main road frontages of Employment Areas which have good access to a range of transport options. Such development should not be detrimental to the efficient and effective use of the remainder of the Employment Area.

New development for employment uses which takes place during the plan period (including sites currently with consent for employment uses) will be treated as Employment Areas for the purpose of this policy.

Outside of the Employment Areas, the redevelopment or change of use of existing employment premises to other employment uses falling within use classes B1, B2 and B8 will be permitted.

Neighbourhood Plans may identify additional premises or clusters of premises outside of Employment Areas within use classes B1, B2 and B8 for protection from redevelopment or change of use if local evidence supports it.

New Employment Areas

4.11 Across the District a number of established Employment Areas provide land and buildings for a variety of economic opportunities as detailed in Policy SCLP4.1 above.

4.12 Through the allocation of new land for employment, the Local Plan can provide opportunities for new inward investment to come forward over the plan period which will improve the economic vibrancy and enterprise across the District. The creation of well situated sites which offer flexibility to potential occupiers and users is welcomed by the Council as this type of development can provide job opportunities and further support tourism and cultural attractions. Utilising the main road frontage of sites ensures that a high quality design is brought forward which is in keeping with the surrounding area and raises the economic potential across the area.

4.13 Ensuring a range of appropriate sites to facilitate business start ups and incubator units as well as sites for established businesses to grow into, enables commercial activity across the District to be free from barriers to business and encourages the creation of prosperity across the District. Making provision for new employment areas can encourage new technologies to be introduced and for industries to cluster by sectors which emerge over the plan period. Increasing the economic prosperity across the District enables greater opportunities for job creation, local spend and vibrant communities.

4.14 New employment areas will also provide opportunities to be realised for all sectors as and when the economic conditions are right. Another key benefit to the provision of new employment areas is that it will provide opportunities to renew the existing stock of business premises which in some parts of the District are not fit for purpose or are coming to the end of their useable life. Without the allocation of new land, there is very limited flexibility to renew and regenerate the existing sites.

4.15 Once implemented, proposals for new development or change of use in the new employment areas will be judged against the requirements in Policy SCLP4.2 below.

Policy SCLP4.2: New Employment Areas

The Council will support the delivery of new employment areas as identified on the Policies Map to provide greater site choice and economic opportunities across the District. Within these areas the Council will support other community related uses provided these are ancillary to the economic activity on the site.

Proposals for new employment development falling within use classes B1, B2 and B8 outside of the Employment Areas but within Settlement Boundaries will be permitted where it would not have an adverse impact on the surrounding land use and local highway network.

Proposals for new employment development falling within use classes B1, B2 and B8 will be permitted adjacent to Employment Areas and outside of Settlement Boundaries provided that:

a) It would not have an adverse impact on surrounding land use; and

b) Additional need for employment development has been demonstrated; or

c) There is no land available within Employment Areas, existing allocations or within Settlement Boundaries to accommodate the proposal.

New employment areas are shown on the Policies Map in the following locations:

  •  SCLP12.30 Land at Innocence Farm
  •  SCLP12.19 Land at Felixstowe Road
  •  SCLP12.3 North Felixstowe Garden Neighbourhood (as part of masterplanned approach)
  •  SCLP12.26 South Saxmundham Garden Neighbourhood (as part of masterplanned approach)

Expansion and Intensification of Employment Sites

4.16 The East Suffolk Economic Growth Strategy seeks to support all businesses across the District to ensure a successful and prosperous economy. The successful delivery of this strategy will be assisted by facilitating the expansion and intensification of existing economic activities, whether it is to assist adaptation to changing markets or to support productivity to remain competitive.

4.17 In some instances enterprises will have outgrown their established site and future options may include expansion of the current site or relocation to another. These enterprises may be either on allocated Employment Areas or on individual sites with an existing employment use. Opportunities for intensification may also be realised by the co-location of business activities to realise synergies that may boost local prosperity.

4.18 Some employment sites by their nature have a greater impact on their local environment and the economic operations anticipated to take place on a site is an important consideration in respect of expansion and intensification. Applicants will be required to demonstrate that their proposals for expansion or intensification do not have a material harm on the environment and that any adverse impacts can be successfully mitigated.

4.19 Where sites are located close to residential areas and proposals would have a detrimental impact on residential amenity by virtue of noise, odour or dust for example, the Council will seek to assist in identifying alternative suitable location(s) within Suffolk Coastal for continued economic activity.

Policy SCLP4.3: Expansion and Intensification of Employment Sites

Proposals to expand or intensify existing employment areas will be permitted unless:

a) The scale of development would cause an adverse impact on the highway network; or

b) There will be material harm to the environmental sustainability in the area; or

c) The proposed use is not compatible with the surrounding employment uses in terms of car parking, access, noise, odour and other amenity concerns; and

d) Potential adverse impacts can not be successfully mitigated.

Protection of Employment Sites

4.20 Over the plan period, it is anticipated that in exceptional circumstances employment activities will be lost, despite the strong and prosperous local economy. However, it is important to retain these sites to support the economic prosperity of the District. Each employment site provides a contribution to the local economy and the majority of existing sites remain suitable and should be protected.

4.21 When employment uses cease to operate from a site, the land and buildings often come under pressure for redevelopment. The Local Plan acknowledges the importance of a vibrant and successful local economy and therefore takes a positive approach to the protection of employment sites.

4.22 In April 2016 the Council published the Commercial Property Marketing Best Practice Guide. The document focuses on the information that the Council would expect in support of planning applications for the change of use of commercial premises and sites. The principles of this guide have been included within Appendix B.

Policy SCLP4.4: Protection of Employment Sites

Employment sites across the District will be protected for B class uses unless:

a. Marketing evidence is provided which demonstrates that the site and/or premises have been marketed for a sustained period of 12 months in accordance with the requirements set out in Appendix B;

Or

b. There would be substantial planning benefit in permitting alternative uses; and

c. The proposed use is compatible with the surrounding employment uses in terms of car parking, access, noise, odour and other amenity concerns.

Proposals for change of use to residential will only be permitted in exceptional circumstances where there is no current or long term need for the site and it is within the defined Settlement Boundary.

Economic Development in Rural Areas

4.23 Economic activity also takes place outside of the towns and the identified Employment Areas in rural locations. It is important that the Local Plan continues to maximise the potential of these activities to support the rural economy and provide a valuable source of jobs locally.

4.24 National Planning Policy seeks to support a prosperous rural economy through the sustainable growth and expansion of businesses in the rural areas. Across the District there are a large number of farms and rural diversification schemes on isolated sites which provide employment opportunities or which through investment, could provide new economic opportunities in the form of traditional B class industries, cultural or tourism activities.

4.25 Public consultation responses have highlighted the need to improve digital services such as mobile and broadband signal to support business activity in the rural areas. The Local Plan supports this need and encourages the increased provision of infrastructure to ensure greater coverage and reliability of this type of utility.

4.26 It is acknowledged that employment opportunities in the rural areas are generally only accessible via motor vehicle and public transport opportunities are limited. In such locations any development needs to be sensitive to the surrounding landscape and not have an unacceptable impact (such as high volumes of HGV traffic) on the local road network including routes to the main road network. However the benefit of retaining these types of sites for economic activity in the majority of cases is considered to outweigh the negatives that arise from location and access arrangements.

4.27 Within the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB, the Council will still support economic development in rural areas, but will strive to ensure that higher levels of design and appropriate screening are delivered to reflect their location within the protected landscape.

Policy SCLP4.5: Economic Development in Rural Areas

Proposals that grow and diversify the rural economy, particularly where this will secure employment locally, will be supported. Proposals will be supported where:

a) They accord with the vision of any relevant Neighbourhood Plan in the area;

b) The scale of the enterprises accord with the Settlement Hierarchy;

c) The design and construction do not have an adverse impact on the character of the surrounding area and landscape or harm the natural environment;

d) Small scale farm and rural diversification schemes make good use of previously developed land;

e) The proposed use is compatible with the surrounding employment uses in terms of car parking, access, noise, odour and other amenity concerns; and

f) The proposal delivers additional community, cultural or tourism benefits.

Conversion and Replacement of Rural Buildings for Employment Use

4.28 National Planning Policy encourages economic growth in rural areas. The Local Plan seeks to support and enhance the rural areas through enabling farm, forestry and other land-based businesses to build the new and replacement buildings and infrastructure they need to function efficiently. The identification of a variety of employment sites throughout the District ensures that the needs of local communities and their ability to realise economic potential comes forward over the plan period.

4.29 When buildings in the countryside are no longer required for their original purpose or become under-used, their re-use and conversion to appropriate uses for employment can represent a sustainable form of development. Buildings in the rural areas can provide opportunities to enhance local prosperity and support the move from lower paid to better paid employment.

4.30 Suffolk Coastal has a number of large traditional rural estates which, through co-ordinated land management, can have an impact on the landscape of the District. Over time, these estates have had a major impact on the variety of economic opportunities across the District and tend to have numerous rural buildings on their land. The management of these rural estates has an influence on the nature of the economic opportunities within the rural areas and, the conversion and replacement of the estate buildings needs to be carefully considered, to ensure appropriate uses are retained and facilitated over the plan period.

4.31 Rural buildings in the countryside are often also heritage assets which are important to retain and bring back into use. Relevant proposals will also need to be considered carefully against the historic environment policies of the Local Plan as well as national planning policy on the conservation of heritage assets.

Policy SCLP4.6: Conversion and Replacement of Rural Buildings for Employment Use

The conversion of rural buildings to employment use will be permitted where:

a) The business use is of a scale and character that is appropriate to its location in accordance with the Settlement Hierarchy;

b) There is good access to the road network or would not generate significant traffic movements that would have a materially adverse effect on highway safety and the amenity of local residents;

c) The proposal would not conflict with neighbouring uses; and

d) The proposal is complementary to the setting of any historic or architecturally important buildings and reflects the form and character of the existing buildings.

The replacement of rural buildings with employment uses will be permitted where:

a) The proposal is of a similar size and scale to the building that is being replaced;

b) There is good access to the road network and significant traffic movements would not be generated that would have a materially adverse effect on highway safety and the amenity of local residents;

c) The proposal would not conflict with neighbouring uses;

d) The proposal is complementary to the setting of any historic or architecturally important buildings and reflects the form and character of the existing buildings; and

e) Proposals would not result in a significant adverse environmental impact.

Farm Diversification

4.32 Agriculture and farming are an important part of the District's economy. Traditionally farming provided significant employment opportunities but over recent years the numbers employed has reduced due to increased costs and technological advances as well as the agglomeration of farmsteads. However, farming remains a key sector and the Local Plan seeks to ensure that appropriate farm diversification schemes can help sustain agricultural operations for the wider benefit.

4.33 Examples of farm diversification across the District include the introduction of farm shops, post offices, tourism activities and education centres which all provide a valuable contribution to the original farm as well as the wider economy and community. In exceptional circumstances farm diversification can include conversion of buildings to permanent residential use. However the Local Plan has a role to ensure that farm diversification does not have an adverse impact on nearby villages or the local road network through traffic generation and parking arrangements in rural area

4.34 As a popular tourist area, many farms have converted buildings to provide tourist accommodation. This is an issue which the Local Plan needs to address to continue to ensure that only appropriate farm diversification schemes involve conversion to tourism accommodation.

4.35 It is anticipated that more diversification proposals will come forward over the plan period and it is essential that these are carefully considered to sustain the existing farm activities and do not have a detrimental impact on the wider community. Applicants will be expected to provide information to demonstrate how the diversification will support the vitality of the existing farm. Information required will need to clearly justify the additional benefits that will be brought about through the diversification proposals.

Policy SCLP4.7: Farm Diversification

Proposals for farm diversification schemes to support the continued viability of the farm will be supported where:

a. Farming activities remain the predominate use on the site;

b. The proposal is of a use and scale that relates well to the setting of the existing farm;

c. The proposal does not compromise highway safety to the local road network or free flow of traffic and there is adequate off road parking;

d. The diversification is supported by detailed information and justification that demonstrates that the proposals will contribute to the viability of the farm as a whole and its continued operation;

e. The diversification retains or provides additional employment for the local community;

f. The proposal supports the retention or creation of jobs associated with the farm;

g. The conversion of existing farm buildings is undertaken sympathetically to the traditional character of the farm; and

h. The proposal does not involve permanent residential uses.

Support will be given to farm shops which provide continued employment opportunities and sell a range of produce associated with the farm and the local area. Proposals should be of a scale which is not detrimental to the existing shopping facilities provided in nearby towns and villages.

Town Centres and Retail

4.36 The distinctiveness, historic character and accessibility of resort and market towns in Suffolk Coastal presents an attractive setting for town centres as concentrations for shopping, leisure, employment, business, social and cultural activities. This also makes them popular with tourists and visitors from nearby areas within and beyond Suffolk Coastal. The towns have varying tourism functions that contribute to the scale of the retail offer and the presence of many specialist and artisan shops. The blend of different types of shops is important to the experience of visitors and local quality of life.

4.37 Town centres are the most accessible places in Suffolk Coastal for shopping and commercial leisure. Commercial leisure is the business of entertainment facilities, the more intensive sport and recreation uses (including cinemas, restaurants, drive-through restaurants, bars and pubs, night-clubs, casinos, health and fitness centres, indoor bowling centres, and bingo halls); and arts, culture and tourism development (including theatres, museums, galleries and concert halls, hotels and conference facilities).

4.38 In common with national trends, food shopping growth has moved towards discounters and smaller store formats of large supermarket chains catering for more frequent, smaller shopping trips. High levels of car ownership and use in the District and consumer choice mean people are increasingly prepared to travel further, in order to access a greater choice of shops and leisure facilities available in larger centres.

4.39 Government policy and up-to-date evidence highlight that it is important that town centres offer a shopping and social experience that is different to out of town or online shopping. This reflects a broader change in the economy, population, e-commerce, how town centres are used and in the way the public spends its money and leisure time. More locally, this is in addition to the effects of a significant presence of out of town retail at Martlesham in the District and nearby Ipswich.

4.40 A balanced mix of town centre shops and services is important to ensure a strong offer to meet the needs of residents of the towns and their surrounding rural areas. This includes well situated units suitable for modern operator requirements on main routes around and through town centres.

4.41 Local and regional projects and strategies (e.g. East Suffolk Business Plan) are consistent in supporting local prosperity, community and cultural life and access to facilities and opportunities.

The Retail Hierarchy in Suffolk Coastal District

4.42 The purpose of the following retail hierarchy for the District and the different levels within the hierarchy is to set out the provision of facilities and scales of shopping development that can be expected of a centre. This recognises retail relationships between centres in the hierarchy, especially in the south of the District between Woodbridge, Felixstowe, the out-of-centre retail destination at Martlesham and the neighbouring county town of Ipswich.

4.43 An out of centre location is one that is neither in, nor on the edge of a centre, but is within the urban area. As an out-of-centre location, Martlesham Retail Park is not sequentially preferable for new retail and commercial leisure so it is therefore not included in the retail hierarchy.

4.44 Small parades of shops serving only the immediate neighbourhood are not classed as centres in national policy, and therefore are not designated. These include corner shops and other very small parades serving the immediate area.

Policy SCLP4.8: Retail Hierarchy

The retail hierarchy in Suffolk Coastal is:

  • Level 1 - Town Centre - Felixstowe (resort town),
  • Level 2 - Town Centres - Aldeburgh, Framlingham, Leiston, Saxmundham, Woodbridge (market towns),
  • Level 3 - District Centres,
  • Level 4 - Local Centres.

Opportunities and capacity for retail growth

4.45 Opportunities for new retail development can enhance customer choice, convenience and shopping experience but can inevitably compete with existing shops and impact on town centres. Evidence forecasts based on population change and household spending patterns (taking into account online shopping and new forms of retailing) show capacity to grow the amount of shopping floorspace in Suffolk Coastal to be very modest. In line with national trends, capacity for retail growth is concentrated on the large urban centres outside the District. Retail capacity for the towns in the District and for the area between Ipswich, Woodbridge and Felixstowe is identified in the Ipswich and Suffolk Coastal Retail and Commercial Leisure Town Centre Study (2017).

4.46 Suffolk Coastal's town centres function within a wider network of retail centres that includes the established retail destination of the retail park and superstore in Martlesham, the neighbouring county town of Ipswich as well as historic cities, towns and shopping centres outside the District.

4.47 The Council recognises that each of the town centres within the District is different, not least in terms of its particular shopping character, tourism offer and relationships with nearby places. This reflects links and relationships between shopping destinations offering choice and differentiation for shoppers' requirements, mobility and lifestyles. For example, Woodbridge is close to Ipswich and Martlesham and has a larger existing retail offer than the other market towns.

4.48 Evidence reveals significant shopping relationships between Woodbridge, Felixstowe, Martlesham and Ipswich. It is therefore important to consider provision for accessible retail and commercial leisure in the south of Suffolk Coastal in the context of the neighbouring county town of Ipswich.

4.49 The NPPF sets out the principles of the sequential test. Proposals for main town centre uses, which includes retail and commercial leisure uses, should be located in town centres. If no suitable sites are available then edge of centre locations should be considered, and if no suitable town centre or edge of centre locations are available then out of centre may be considered. A retail impact assessment will need to be submitted alongside any applications outside of town centres which exceed the thresholds set out in Policy SCLP4.9, in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework and the guidance set out in the Planning Practice Guidance.

Policy SCLP4.9: New Retail Development

Priority will be given to concentrating retail and commercial leisure development within Town Centres as identified in the retail hierarchy. Retail and commercial leisure (falling within Use Classes A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, C1 and D2) will be permitted within Town Centres identified in the hierarchy and as defined on the Policies Maps. This will reinforce and reflect compact town centres.

Retail and commercial leisure development will be permitted on edge of centre sites, only where there are no suitable or available sites within a Town Centre. For retail developments, edge of centre is defined as within 300 metres of the Primary Shopping Area, as defined on the Policies Maps. For commercial leisure, edge of centre sites should be within 300 metres of the Town Centre.

Retail and commercial leisure development will only be permitted on out of centre sites where there are no suitable or available sites within a Town Centre or edge of centre location. Retail and commercial leisure development will only be permitted on out of centre sites where:

a) The location is accessible by public transport and is accessible to pedestrian and cyclists;

b) The site has good links to a Town Centre, or links can be improved; and

c) The site will not impact upon other neighbouring uses, in terms of traffic, parking and amenity issues.

Proposals for retail or commercial leisure uses outside of Town Centres will only be permitted where it can be demonstrated that there will be no significant adverse impact on defined centres. This will be determined through an impact assessment which will be required for proposals greater in size than the thresholds set out below:

Settlement Centre

Floor Space Impact Threshold (gross)

Level 1 (Felixstowe)

750sqm

Level 2 (Woodbridge)

750sqm

Level 2 (Aldeburgh, Framlingham, Leiston, Saxmundham)

350sqm

The impact assessment will need to consider potential impact on all relevant centres (including those outside of the District) depending on the location, scale and nature of the proposal. The scope and nature of an impact assessment will be determined at the time of a planning application. Proposals that would have a significant adverse impact on the vitality and viability of town centres will be refused.

The Nature of Town Centre Development

4.50 Development will improve and develop the town centres incrementally and organically to reflect their distinct historic character and functions having regard to their position in the retail hierarchy and relationships with other shopping and leisure destinations. The policy approach is to support town and District and local centres in the hierarchy to consolidate and enhance their offer to local people and visitors.

4.51 Boundaries of town centres guide the use of buildings and land in town centre areas, including primary shopping areas, and primary and secondary shopping frontages. It is recognised that integrated use of town centre ground floor space may combine some commercial leisure or community uses with retail to enhance the retail experience and help sustain the retail use.

4.52 The Council undertakes monitoring of town centres annually. This monitoring provides the baseline position for each town centre and it will be the role of the Local Plan to maintain the high proportion of A1 uses in each town centre. Maintaining the high proportion of retail units within town centres is essential and enables the Council to take a positive approach to retail proposals and town centre uses which deliver customer choice and individuality for towns across the District.

4.53 The District is fortunate to have many historic shopfronts in the town centres, which are often within designated Conservation Areas. The Local Plan will seek to ensure these are protected to maintain distinct and individual town centres. In partnership with Historic England the Council will encourage the retention and/or restoration of historic shop fronts through planning applications or specific interventions and projects in accordance with policies SCLP11.3, SCLP11.4 and SCLP11.5.

Policy SCLP4.10: Development in Town Centres

Town centres will improve and develop incrementally and organically to reflect their distinct historic character and functions having regard to their position in the retail hierarchy and relationships with other shopping and leisure destinations.

Town centres will develop in ways that support healthy lifestyles, social interaction, overnight stays, culture and the arts.

Within the Primary Shopping Areas as identified on Local Plan and Neighbourhood Plan Policies Maps, the primarily retail function of these areas will be safeguarded. Non-A1 uses on the ground floor will be supported where they will help to sustain A1 uses and enhance the retail offer.

New retail uses (A1) will be directed to the Primary Shopping Frontage in the first instance. The majority of primary frontages will be in retail use at ground floor level. Proposals that reduce the high proportion of A1 uses and/or result in concentrations of non-A1 uses will be resisted.

The Secondary Shopping frontage, as defined on the Policies Map, will provide a mixture of town centre uses whilst retaining a proportion of A1 uses at ground floor level to ensure a balance and blend of shops and services is maintained.

Outside of the Primary and Secondary frontages the Council will take a flexible approach to future uses and redevelopment opportunities within the town centre which sustain and enhance the vitality and viability of the town.

Proposals for the redevelopment/change of use of existing units should give particular consideration to retaining and/or restoring historic shopfronts.

Town Centre Environments

4.54 All of the town centres are at least partly within designated Conservation Areas. Development should enhance and invest in historic environments and infrastructure including public seating, arts and cultural facilities. Development in the town centre should also provide enhancements for urban biodiversity where possible. This will help promote community interaction and healthy lifestyles. It is recognised that there may be opportunities or advantages for temporary use of historic buildings for buildings for a short and prescribed period of time especially whilst buildings are otherwise vacant.

4.55 There are particular opportunities to enhance pedestrian connectivity and legibility related to development and change within the town centres. This includes but is not limited to the following examples:

  • Felixstowe - between town centre and seafront;
  • Woodbridge - between town centre and riverside;
  • Aldeburgh - between car parks and town centre;
  • Framlingham - highways junctions (identified in the Neighbourhood Plan);
  • Leiston - mixed use town centre opportunity site (identified in the Neighbourhood Plan);
  • Saxmundham - between railway station and town centre;
  • Martlesham - between retail units and employment areas.

Policy SCLP4.11: Town Centre Environments

Development will encourage people to spend more time, enjoy and participate in town centres. It will do this by:

a) Supporting social interaction;

b) Ensuring safe pedestrian access to link up with and enhancing existing pavements, pedestrian spaces, routes and focal points;

c) Improving access for cyclists, people with limited mobility and people with other disabilities;

d) Enabling physical linkages so that pedestrians can move easily and safely between parts of the town centre; and

e) Providing environmental improvements that make the most of historic environments;

The expansion of Shared Space and Dementia Friendly areas will be supported where proposals maintain active town centre frontages without compromising highway access, vehicular and pedestrian movements.

Martlesham and Kesgrave

4.56 Situated in between Woodbridge and Ipswich are Martlesham and Kesgrave. They are popular places to live, especially for families, having a younger population than the District as a whole. They offer a high quality of life[2] including good employment prospects with a significant presence of diverse business areas at Martlesham. Connected by an extensive network of public open spaces and cycle routes these places can present convenient locations from which to access other parts of the District and surrounding area through a variety of transport opportunities. These parts of the District have experienced economic and housing growth which places particular pressures on highways and local infrastructure.

4.57 The retail park at Martlesham has evolved sporadically into a number of large modern premises comprising retail floorspace selling mostly non-bulky goods. This includes clothing and footwear as well as groceries and toiletries. The Retail Park is not characterised by the wider role or function of a town centre. Capacity for its further expansion is dependent upon adjacent employment areas and impact on centres in the retail hierarchy as well as the vision outlined in the Martlesham Neighbourhood Plan.

[25] Royal Mail 2017 update of its 2015 study to find the most desirable places to live and work in England based on postcode.

Policy SCLP4.12: Retail in Martlesham and Kesgrave

Retail and leisure development will enable these thriving communities to evolve and support community interaction.

Out of centre retail and commercial leisure uses at Martlesham will only be permitted where:

a) There are no sites that are suitable or available to accommodate the nature and scale of the proposal in or on the edge of a centre in the Retail Hierarchy; and

b) The principal type of retail provision would not have a significant adverse impact on centres in the retail hierarchy including, but not limited to, the Square, Martlesham Heath. Where development is considered acceptable in terms of the town centre sequential and impact tests proposals, it should make a positive contribution towards improving:

i. Non-car circulation and pedestrian / highway conflicts;

ii. The physical and visual integration of out of centre retail and commercial leisure;

iii. Green infrastructure supporting healthy lifestyles and social interaction;

iv. Accessibility for persons with physical or mental disabilities including dementia friendly environments; and

v. Accessible local services.

The change of use of existing office, industrial and storage floorspace (use classes B1, B2 and B8) to retail or commercial leisure uses will be resisted. Such changes of use will only be permitted if the site is surplus to requirements for B1, B2 and B8 uses, as satisfactorily demonstrated by marketing in accordance with Appendix B.

2. Royal Mail 2017 update of its 2015 study to find the most desirable places to live and work in England based on postcode. [back]

District and Local Centres

4.58 A District Centre is a large group of shops anchored by a small supermarket, together with facilities, which collectively form a coherent area. They provide opportunity for local people to meet everyday needs without having to travel.

4.59 A Local Centre is the next level down in the retail hierarchy, offering a smaller range of facilities than those present in a District Centre. Nonetheless, they play an equally important role in meeting the day-to-day shopping needs for a community, particularly the less mobile and elderly. Local Centres typically feature a newsagent and/or small convenience store, along with various other small shops serving a small catchment.

4.60 Outside of District and Local Centres, small shops within villages play a vital role in serving the day to day needs for convenience goods for residents, and often also provide a focal point for the community.

Policy SCLP4.13: District and Local Centres and Local Shops

District Centres are defined on the Local Plan Policies Map. District Centres provide shops and some other local services to meet the needs of residents in the local area.

Local shopping opportunities and facilities within District Centres will be supported and safeguarded where possible. Proposals which seek to increase the shopping opportunities and facilities within District Centres will be supported where they complement the existing role of these areas and do not have a detrimental impact on the town centres across the District or on neighbouring residential amenity. Proposals for the redevelopment/change of use of existing retail units should give particular consideration to retaining and/or restoring historic shopfronts in accordance with other policies in the Local Plan.

Local Centres will provide a small range of shops and other local services which help meet the needs of residents. Local shopping opportunities and facilities within Local Centres will be supported and safeguarded where possible. Where appropriate, proposals for the redevelopment/change of use of existing retail units should give particular consideration to retaining and/or restoring historic shopfronts in accordance with other policies in the Local Plan.

Individual and groups of local shops, services and community facilities located outside of the designated centres will be protected where they are important to meet day-to-day needs of local communities.