As Westminster’s new City Plan 2019-2040 enters the examination stage and progresses towards adopted, the draft policies can be afforded increasingly more weight in the determination of planning applications. One key policy change that stands out is the position the new Plan takes regarding the loss of Class A1 retail use in central London.
The adopted City Plan (2016) takes a very restricted approach to the loss of A1 use with policy protecting all existing retail throughout the Borough except where the council consider that the unit is not viable. Officers have applied this policy strictly resisting any loss of A1 use unless it can be demonstrated that the unit has been subject to long-term vacancy despite marketing.
The new City Plan creates a West End Retail and Leisure Special Policy Area (WERLSPA) which seek the delivery of a diverse evening and night-time economy and enhanced cultural offer. This new area replaces the West End Retail Special Policy Area and is expanded to better reflect the mixed-use nature of the wider area and interdependence of uses that’s much more diverse and varied than simply retail.
A1 retail remains the priority use at ground floor level throughout the town centre hierarchy and policy only supports its loss when there is evidence that there is no reasonable prospect of its continued use for A1-retail purposes i.e. as evidenced by appropriate marketing for a period of at least 18 months. However, this policy requirement does not apply to proposals within the WERLSPA (unless the site is also designated as part of the West End International Centre or a CAZ retail Cluster).
This effectively means that policy allows the change of use of A1 units to non-retail uses in the area outlined in purple on the plan below, excluding the areas shown in red and yellow.
This new policy approach offers much greater flexibility of uses within WERLSPA than elsewhere in the town centre hierarchy and could potentially be very useful in opening up new change of use and/or development opportunities for existing retail units in the area.
If you would like to discuss the implications of Westminster’s emerging City Plan, please feel free to contact Mark Shearman (firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 3096 7000) or any other member of the Firstplan team.