Town and Village Centres (Retail) Study

This piece of work responds to requirements in Planning Policy Statement Note 4 “Planning for Sustainable Economic Growth” (PPS4) that suggests a need for a robust evidence base on town centre uses, including retail provision and other business uses, and an understanding of changes to those centres over time.  It also reflects guidance in the draft National Planning Policy Framework.  The study covers the part of the West Somerset District for which the Council has a responsibility for planning matters, namely the area outside of the Exmoor National Park.
The study has sought better to understand the current economic health and future supply, demand and needs of the area’s town and village centres and the people who use them, with a focus on retail uses.  It has done this principally through an economic health check of the main settlements and villages, identification of key issues facing the area through discussion with key stakeholders, analysis of future potential retail floorspace needs and a broad assessment of potential requirements for leisure uses, to arrive at a range of key issues and recommendations on managing change in the settlements.  From this information, planning policies for town and village centres and the main uses within them can be identified and tested.
The findings of the study suggest that the focus in the area in the short and medium term future should be to defend the existing shopping provision and service offer, enhance the quality of the urban environment, and to make only minor enhancements to the retail economy if opportunities arise, rather than major additions which are unlikely to be commercially viable given the levels of expenditure within the settlements’ retail catchments.  This is particularly the case for convenience shopping and it is all the more important to note this approach given the current state of the economy.