The Department for the Environment, Community and Local Government has published new Retail Planning Guidelines and accompanying Retail Design Manual. The new guidelines have statutory force and are designed to ensure that the planning system plays a key role in ensuring competitiveness in the retail sector advancing choice for the consumer while promoting and supporting the vitality and viability of city and town centres and contributing to a high standard of urban design and encouraging a greater use of sustainable transport.
At the release, Minister Hogan stated that, “These Guidelines acknowledge that apart from the direct and indirect employment generated by the retail sector, shops play a major role in attracting people to cities, towns and villages, thus contributing to the overall economic vitality of those centres and supporting their role as centres of social and business interaction in the community.” He added that, “Retailing also supports the considerable investment by the public and private sectors in urban renewal, by providing shopping facilities to residents and by adding to the vitality and attractiveness of inner areas of cities and towns. Smaller towns and villages serve their surrounding rural areas by providing a range of facilities and services.”
While the convenience retail floorspace caps remain as published in the draft Guidelines in November 2011 in light of the general acceptance as to the need for caps, the consultation draft was revised to more clearly state that the scale of retail provision across cities and towns must align with the settlement policies of relevant development plans and local plans, including the provision of district centres and not the other way around.
Furthermore, the finalised guidelines outline greater detail in relation to:
- the new requirement for joined up approaches to planning for the retail sector across local authority boundaries;
- a general presumption against out of town retail centres; and
- clarification of certain retail planning definitions to reflect various changes in the retail sector.
The new Guidelines place a special emphasis on a new requirement for the preparation of such strategies, by relevant planning authorities in 6 gateway cities and towns that straddle local authority boundaries (Dublin, Cork, Galway, Waterford, Limerick/Shannon and Midlands).
Minister Hogan highlighted that “It is very important that the planning system provides a clear framework for the continued development of the retail sector in a way that provides certainty for retailers and communities in the relevant policy framework, in the assessment of development proposals in ensuring good vitality of the places retail activity takes place within and ultimately ensuring competitiveness, nationally, regionally and locally. I firmly believe these new Guidelines will deliver on these objectives over time.”
The finalised statutory Guidelines are accompanied by a non-statutory Retail Design Manual which is intended to assist both planning authorities and prospective applicants in relation to design issues and the assessment of the vitality and viability of city and town centres. It should be further noted that both documents are being released initially as web based documents and the Department is arranging for published printed versions to be made available as soon as possible, therefore the design presentation of these will alter, particularly in the case of the accompanying Retail Design Manual.