Draft Local Plan October 2012

Town Centres

6.44 Town centre uses include retail development, offices, leisure, entertainment, arts, culture and tourism development and intensive sport and recreation uses. The evidence in our retail needs assessment and town centre surveys has identified that the main town centres of Witney, Carterton and Chipping Norton, Burford and Woodstock are generally vibrant with low vacancy rates. The 'high street' however faces a number of challenges in future not least from tightening of consumer spending and changing consumer behaviour including increasing competition posed by the internet and competing centres such as Oxford. Strategies which support our high streets are even more vital.

6.45 Witney is the largest and strongest performing town centre. It has a strong convenience goods (e.g. food and groceries) and comparison goods (e.g. clothes, jewellery and electrical items) offer that attracts shoppers and visitors from a wide area. Recent developments including the construction of Marriotts Walk and extension of the Woolgate centre have further enhanced the role of Witney town centre as the primary shopping and leisure destination. Carterton town centre acts as an important centre serving the south of the District, particularly providing a convenience and service offer. It has been a long term aim to improve Carterton's shopping and leisure offer and this is now being progressed. Chipping Norton, serves the north of the District, and whilst it is performing reasonably well for a centre of its size it has been highlighted as benefiting from further foodstore provision and proposals are also well advanced to achieve this with the expansion of the Co-op in the town centre.

6.46 The main centres are supported by a number of smaller town, village and neighbourhood shopping centres. The historic market towns of Burford and Woodstock have a relatively large number of shops and facilities for their size reflecting their historic and tourist roles.

6.47 All of these centres are potentially vulnerable to out of centre proposals and our objective is to ensure continued investment in the town centres to enhance their shopping and leisure offer to meet residents' and visitor needs. The Retail Needs Assessment Update 2012 examines the consumer spending capacity to support significant additional shopping development over the plan period. Although well served at present the assessment identifies capacity to support additional shopping floorspace in Witney in the medium and longer term and recommends that this strategy starts to plan for phased extension to the town centre to accommodate new investment.

6.48 In Carterton there is significant capacity to 'claw back' trade that is leaking to other town centres, and with current proposals for a foodstore, the likely main future need will be to enhance the centre's comparison shopping and leisure offer. In Chipping Norton, limited capacity to support additional shopping floorspace was identified and not sufficient to support large scale retail development. Recognising their ability to support significant new town centre development, town centre development strategies have been prepared for Witney and Carterton (see Section 9). The Council will continue to work with these and other communities including through the Chipping Norton Neighbourhood Plan to promote and enhance the attractiveness of all town centres addressing where possible issues of publicity, security, parking and accessibility, and improvements to the public realm.

6.49 To support our town centres we will seek to direct significant proposals for new shopping and town centre development, which provides for more than day to day needs, to our town centres wherever possible. Such proposals must follow the 'town centre first' approach established through national planning policy whereby the availability, suitability and viability of town centre sites to accommodate new town centre development should be fully explored, before edge of centre sites, and lastly out-of-centre sites are considered. New town centre development should be in accessible locations and appropriate in nature and scale to the role of the centre where it is located. Developments which are likely to attract customers from a significantly wider area than the centre's existing catchment may be considered out of scale with the role of that centre and may be better located within or adjacent to a larger centre.

6.50 The impact of proposed new town centre uses on the vitality of existing town centres and planned measures to improve them must also be fully considered. Impact assessments will be required for significant proposals (over 500m2 net sales floorspace) where they are not in a centre or in accordance with a local or neighbourhood development plan and will be expected to be proportionate to the scale and type of development proposed. This threshold will help protect the town centres from medium and large out of centre foodstores and other shops which could have significant impacts. Proposals which will have a significant negative impact on the vitality and viability of town centres will not be supported.

6.51 Primary and secondary shopping frontages have been defined in Witney, Carterton and Chipping Norton. Primary shopping frontages have a high proportion of shops and are core frontages to protect to maintain the attractiveness and coherence of the centres. We will resist the loss of shops in these areas. Within the secondary shopping frontages, shops and other uses which complement the shopping and leisure role of town centres will be permitted including cafes, restaurants and other leisure and cultural uses, although care will be taken to avoid excessive concentrations of single uses that could cause amenity issues and affect the vitality of the area. Together these frontages form the primary shopping area.

6.52 Burford and Woodstock are smaller centres where the defined town centres encapsulate the primary shopping area and the definition of primary and secondary frontages is not appropriate. The loss of shops and other town centre uses will be resisted throughout these town centres.

6.53 The Council's current policy approach of providing free parking is a significant attraction to shoppers and assists in maintaining the vitality and viability of the town centres. The application of time management controls and enforcement seek to ensure that adequate levels of short-stay spaces are available to meet the needs of shoppers and other visitors to the area and helps to support retailers and the local economy. Car parking capacity is however nearing capacity in the town centres.

6.54 As a predominantly rural area where our town centres attract shoppers from a wide area, a continuing supply of available car parking space will remain of importance if the shopping centres are to continue to flourish in the face of competition from internet retailing and larger centres out of the District.  Opportunities to increase car parking in our town centres are however limited and solutions such as decking may be required. Development proposals which will significantly increase car parking demand in town centres will be expected to make appropriate provision for increased public car parking whether through direct provision or financial contributions.

6.55 There are several garden centres and farm shops within the District which also provide shopping facilities to which our town centre policy will apply. The impact of the expansion or new provision of such shopping facilities on our town and village centres needs to be considered. Farm shops should be a genuine outlet of local farm produce and our approach is set out in Core Policy 12. Garden centres do not need to be located in open countryside and the most suitable locations will be adjacent to medium or larger settlements where traffic generated can be more easily absorbed by the road network. The goods to be sold should be genuinely associated with horticulture and gardening and planning conditions will be applied limiting the amount of sales floorspace and type of goods sold.

CORE POLICY 16 - Town Centres


Town, village and neighbourhood centres will be supported as the focus for shopping, leisure, community facilities and services. The Council will work with local businesses, residents, parish and town councils to ensure town, village and neighbourhood centres remain vibrant, accessible and meet local needs.

The following town centres are defined on the proposals map:

Principal town centre - Witney

Primary town centres - Carterton, Chipping Norton

Town centres with a significant tourist role - Burford, Woodstock

The Council will apply the sequential and impact tests set out in the National Planning Policy Framework to new shopping and other town centre development. Impact assessments will be required for significant proposals (over 500m2 net sales floorspace) where they are not in a centre or in accordance with a local or neighbourhood development plan.

Primary and secondary shopping frontages are defined on the proposals map in Witney, Carterton and Chipping Norton.

Within primary shopping frontages the loss of shops (A1 use) will be resisted.

Within secondary shopping frontages, shops and other town centre uses, such as restaurants or cafes, will be allowed where they would complement and enhance the shopping offer of the defined shopping frontage. The loss of town centre uses in these frontages will be resisted and excessive concentrations of single uses will not be allowed where this would be likely to cause issues of amenity or affect the vitality of the area.

In the town centres of Burford and Woodstock the loss of shops and other town centre uses will be resisted.

Where the loss of shops or town centre uses is proposed contrary to this policy it will need to be demonstrated through a robust marketing exercise that the site or premises are not reasonably capable of being used or redeveloped for these uses.

The Council will work in partnership to promote and enhance the attractiveness of all town centres addressing where possible issues of publicity, security, parking and accessibility, and improvements to the public realm. Development proposals which significantly increase car parking demand in our town centres will be expected to make appropriate public car parking provision or provide equivalent financial contributions.