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SH1  Criteria for Development in Key Town Centres  Policy

Within the Key Town Centres listed below, proposals falling within Class A1, Class A2, Class A3 and Class D1 of the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987, together with other uses appropriate to a town centre location, including cinemas, theatres and taxi businesses, will be permitted subject to the following criteria:

(i) the proposal, together with other recent or proposed development does not undermine the vitality and viability of any Key Town Centre or Traditional Suburban Centre as a whole or other town centre outside the Borough boundary;

(ii) the proposal does not generate traffic in excess of that which can be accommodated by the existing or proposed highway network;

(iii) the proposal meets highway access and servicing requirements and includes off-street car parking in line with Policy TR9 and cycle parking in line with Policy TR12;

(iv) the siting, scale, design, choice of materials and landscaping is not detrimental to the character of the area;

(v) the proposal does not cause nuisance to neighbouring uses, or lead to loss of amenity, as a result of noise and disturbance, on-street parking or delivery vehicles - where necessary, a suitable condition will be imposed on hours of opening/ operation;

(vi) proposals for Class A2 uses should incorporate the provision of a shop front and permanent window display.

Proposals for Class A3 and other appropriate town centre uses should additionally satisfy the following criteria as required:

(vii) where a proposal for Class A3 or other non-retail use is located on a street containing similar establishments, cumulative levels of noise and disturbance, from both the existing and proposed activities, should not exceed a level likely to be detrimental to the amenity of the area;

(viii) proposals for Class A3 uses should include measures to mitigate smells and internally-generated noise - these measures should not intrude visually into the street scene and should be fully installed before the business commences trading.

The Town Centres to which Policy SH1 applies are:

1. Birkenhead (Core Area)
2. Bromborough Village
3. Heswall
4. Hoylake
5. Liscard
6. Moreton
7. New Ferry
8. Prenton (Woodchurch Road)
9. West Kirby

Reasoned justification :

16.8 The Borough’s Key Town Centres are the main providers of retailing, financial and other services in Wirral. In addition, the contribution which they can make to reducing the number and length of car journeys and encouraging greater use of public transport is increasingly recognised. The Council is thus committed to the retention and enhancement of these centres. Their long-term viability will only be achieved, however, by providing for the modern operational requirements of both retailers and customers.

16.9 Policy SH1 establishes a presumption in favour of development, within the boundaries of these centres, which falls within Class A1 (Shops), Class A2 (Financial and Professional Services) and Class A3 (Food and Drink), along with Class D1 (Non-Residential Institutions) and other uses appropriate to a town centre location, subject to the criteria set out in the policy. The Town and Country Planning General Development Order 1988 permits change from both Class A3, and Class A2 uses with a display window at ground floor level, to Class A1 use without the need to apply for planning permission. In practice, development allowed under Policy SH1 will concentrate on redevelopment, extension and modernisation. There are few areas where a large site is available, or can be assembled with minimum disruption to the centre concerned.

16.10 An important consideration when assessing any proposal for retail development is it’s impact on the vitality and viability of the existing Key Town and Traditional Suburban Centres, including the centre in which the proposal is located, both within the Borough and elsewhere.

16.11 In assessing vitality and viability, particular regard will be had to: the trade draw and market share of the proposal; the impact on future levels of investment, on vacancy levels and the physical condition of the centre(s), impact on the range of services provided in the centre(s), on any current or proposed urban regeneration initiatives in the centre(s); and the cumulative
impact of the proposal with other recent or proposed retail development.

16.12 The Local Planning Authority may request a statement of retail impact from the developer, where it considers that this would be of assistance in assessing the impact of a proposed new retail development.

16.13 Class A2 uses (Financial and Professional Services) are assuming an increasingly important role in these centres. Structural change in the banking sector in particular is resulting in the closure of many small branches in local centres and a concentration on fewer but larger branches in key shopping centres. If recent trends in retailing continue, the service role of these shopping centres is likely to assume increasing importance.

16.14 The Council has not identified primary retail frontages or attempted to place quotas on the number of Class A2 uses in a shopping frontage. This type of designation would be somewhat arbitrary, and restricting development within town centres to retail uses alone is not recommended in national planning advice.

16.15 Other non-retail uses such as theatres, cinemas, hot food takeaways, night-clubs, public houses and restaurants can make an important contribution to the vitality of the shopping centre, especially during the evenings when other shops are closed and otherwise “dead” frontages are created by the use of security shutters. They are also significant generators of travel demand and are thus best located in these centres which enjoy a high degree of accessibility by modes of transport other than the private car.

16.16 Policy SH1 includes safeguards to ensure that any potential impact on amenity is fully considered, especially in situations where establishments which individually would not give cause for concern may create unacceptable levels of noise and disturbance when several are located on one street or parade of shops.

16.17 Birkenhead is the main sub-regional shopping centre for the Borough - Liverpool being classed as the regional centre for Merseyside as a whole. The Core Area is centred on the Grange Precinct and the pedestrianised Grange Road, recently supplemented by the Pyramids Shopping Centre. Within this area, the major national multiples and department stores are represented. The centre appears to be trading well with very low levels of vacancies evident.

16.18 The opening of the Pyramids Shopping Centre in 1991 represented a significant expansion of retail floorspace within a high quality shopping environment. Following the transfer of the Grange Precinct into private ownership, measures have been put in hand to upgrade it’s appearance and re-develop the eastern end of the Precinct, including provision of additional retail floorspace and a multi-storey car park.

16.19 A key development opportunity in Birkenhead is the Conway Park site, which is allocated under Proposal EM2 in Section 5 of the UDP. The new Merseyrail underground station considerably improves access for rail travellers in the north and west of the Borough, and should help consolidate Birkenhead’s status as the Borough’s main shopping centre. Other development on the site such as the new swimming pool adds to the diversity of Birkenhead and provides additional “attractors” to the town centre.

16.20 The new railway station, along with improvements to bus facilities and provision of park and ride elsewhere in the Borough will enable the Council to adopt a more restrictive approach to the provision of additional car parking in Birkenhead. Such an approach is already being adopted by Merseyside Development Corporation in the Hamilton Square area.

16.21 Liscard is the main shopping centre serving Wallasey which was consolidated in the 1960s with the construction of the Liscard Precinct and the pedestrianisation of Liscard Road between Mill Lane and Wallasey Road. More recently, the former has been substantially refurbished, roofed over, and now operates as the “Cherry Tree Centre”. As with Birkenhead, this work has tended to highlight the need for environmental improvements elsewhere in the centre, particularly on the pedestrianised Liscard Road. The centre also has a higher level of vacancy than Birkenhead. The Council will seek to work with traders and other users of Liscard Town Centre in order to secure these improvements. New retail development will be restricted to the refurbishment and reuse of existing shop units, there being no sites at present suitable for new-build development.

16.22 Other Key Town Centres at Heswall, West Kirby, Hoylake, Prenton (Woodchurch Road), Moreton, New Ferry and Bromborough Village perform an important second-tier role in the Borough. Most have one or more large supermarkets, a range of durable and service uses including, in some cases, national multiples. All provide a broad range of facilities and services and are well served by public transport. Where problems do occur, these tend to relate to car parking and/ or traffic congestion and the Council will monitor the situation carefully and, subject to the availability of funding, initiate improvements.