New Local Plan Options

Ended on the 30 October 2015
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11. Town Centres and Retail

159. Our town and village centres are at the heart of local communities. They are valued as places to meet, eat, shop, spend leisure time and carry out business. The ways we are using town centres, however, are changing particularly with the growth of on-line shopping and 'click and collect'. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) emphasises that we should plan positively for town centres to support their vitality, provide for customer choice and promote their individuality.

160. In 2013 the Council commissioned a retail study in order to understand retail trends, assess the future need for additional retail floorspace and identify potential development sites in our 3 main shopping centres (Market Harborough, Lutterworth and Broughton Astley). This section looks at the evidence and suggests the approach that new Local Plan policy will take.

(2) How much new retail floorspace is needed to 2031?

161. Part of the purpose of the Harborough Retail Study was to forecast the amount of additional retail floorspace needed over the new Local Plan period so that we can seek opportunities to meet these needs in the most appropriate way. The need for both convenience (e.g. food and drink) and comparison (e.g. clothing, furniture and household appliances) was assessed. When updated to take into account outstanding planning permissions for large food stores, the assessment of need suggests that there is limited scope for additional new convenience floorspace to 2031. This situation may change if the proposed stores are not developed. The forecast need figures for comparison floorspace from 2013 to 2021 and from 2013 to 2031 show that there is a need to identify potential sites for future use, particularly in Market Harborough.


Additional Retail Floorspace Required (m2 gross) 2013-2031*

Convenience retail

Comparison retail





Market Harborough










Broughton Astley





Other Harborough










*Based on tables 6.2 and 6.3 of the Harborough Retail Study. Current commitments for large food stores in Broughton Astley (up to 2,450 m2 gross) and Market Harborough (4,293 m2gross of which up to 25% is comparison) have been subtracted from the figures.
Figure 21: Retail floorspace needs across Harborough District from 2013 to 2031

(2) Where should retail and town centre needs be met?

162. The NPPF makes it clear that we should understand the scale of new retail floorspace needed over the plan period and allocate a suitable range of sites to meet this need. Vacant shop units may be able to contribute to this need but only to a limited extent, as the Harborough Retail Study 2013 showed that vacancy rates were lower than the national average. Therefore the new Local Plan will need to allocate land for town centre uses and retail needs to 2031.

163. A number of potential retail sites have been identified through the Retail Study 2013 and through local knowledge. These are mainly in Market Harborough. A recent Call for Sites for development failed to attract any retail or other town centre use submissions. The potential sites identified to date are set out in Appendix K. The deliverability and viability of the sites has not yet been assessed. Where these involve development of existing surface level car parks it is expected that in any redevelopment there will be replacement car parking provision either on site or elsewhere in the town centre.

(13) Q13. Do you have any comments on the potential retail sites (set out in Appendix K)?

Town Centre and Primary Shopping Area Boundaries

164. The definition of town centre and principal shopping area boundaries helps in ensuring that retail and other town centre uses are located in the most appropriate locations. We are keen to strengthen the 'town centre first' principle to the location of retail and town centre uses, meaning that wherever possible new development should be located in or as close to the town centre as possible.

165. Market Harborough is the largest and most vibrant shopping centre in the District, benefiting from an historic, attractive environment. In order to ensure that retail development and other town centre uses are directed to the most appropriate areas of the town, we intend to define both a town centre and a primary shopping area for the town in the new Local Plan. The primary shopping area will serve as the preferred location for retail development and the town centre boundary will be the preferred location for other main town centre uses such as leisure and offices. These proposed designations (see Figure 22) will help in the application of the sequential test (the aim of which is to identify whether there are preferable sites in primary shopping areas or town centres for the development proposed).

166. No changes are proposed at present to the Lutterworth Shopping and Business Area (SBA), the Kibworths SBA, Great Glen SBA, or Fleckney SBA as currently defined in 2001 Local Plan policy SH/1 as they are still considered to be appropriate. However, depending on the development strategy option chosen and its potential impacts, some SBA boundaries may need further consideration as part of the new Local Plan in later stages of plan preparation or within the appropriate neighbourhood plan. No changes are proposed to the Broughton Astley SBA as defined in the Broughton Astley Neighbourhood Plan as this was recently assessed as part of the neighbourhood plan preparation process.

Market Harborough

Figure 22 : Suggested town centre and primary shopping area boundary revisions for Market Harborough

(7) Q14. Do you have any comments on the suggested Town Centre or Primary Shopping Area boundary for Market Harborough (as set out in Figure 22)?

Threshold for requirement of a Retail Impact Assessment

167. It is important that development is appropriate in terms of scale and nature to the centre in which it is located. Retail impact assessments can be used to ensure that the impact of out of centre and edge of centre proposals are not significantly adverse. The NPPF allows a locally specific threshold for the requirement of an impact assessment to be set as long as it is justified (the default threshold set out in the NPPF is 2,500 m2).

168. In line with the findings of the Harborough Retail Study (2013), the Council considers that development below 2,500 m2 could have a significant adverse impact on our centres across the District. Therefore we are suggesting that retail policy in the new Local Plan sets the following local thresholds for requiring impact assessments for retail proposals which are outside defined town centres and not in accordance with adopted policy:

  • 1,500 m2 gross for Market Harborough: and
  • 500 m2 gross elsewhere.

(5) Proposed new Local Plan policy approach

169. Our suggested approach is to focus most new shopping development at Market Harborough, while continuing to support limited growth in other town and village centres. In summary new Local Plan policy relating to town centres will be based on a clear understanding of the new retail floorspace needs, the allocation of sites to meet those needs, the definition of an appropriate town centre and primary shopping area for Market Harborough, the definition of shopping and business areas for the other centres to ensure new development is located in the most appropriate locations and the setting of locally specific thresholds for the requirement of impact assessments.

Background Documents:

Harborough Retail Study 2013

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