Policy EMP3: Town, District and Local Centres

Open22 Jan, 2024, 10:00am - 4 Mar, 2024, 11:59pm

Policy EMP3:  Town, District and Local Centres

Main town centre uses (such as retail, office, entertainment and leisure) will be permitted within the defined town, district and local centres provided that they are designed at a scale and character which reflects the role, function and distinctive qualities of the centre. Any development that would harm the vitality and viability of a defined centre will not be permitted.

The hierarchy of centres is:

Town Centre


District Centres

Brighton Hill





Local Centres


New local and district centres may also come forward as part of larger developments set out in Policy SPS5 where they are suitable in scale to the level of growth proposed and where their scale would not have a significant adverse impact upon the vitality and viability of existing centres or on any committed, planned or proposed public or private investment in existing centres.

Development, including extensions to existing facilities, for main town centre uses outside of the defined centres which are not in accordance with an up-to-date plan will only be permitted if, in accordance with the sequential test, it could be demonstrated that the development could not be accommodated firstly within a suitable and available centre, or then within an edge of centre location having demonstrated appropriate flexibility in the format and scale of development proposed. In addition to the small-scale rural uses exempted by national policy, proposals for small-scale retail and leisure uses (including those in Use Class F2) that meet the day-to-day needs of local people will not be required to apply the sequential test.

Where not in accordance with an up-to-date plan, development for retail and leisure uses, with a net usable sales floorspace exceeding 250sqm, in edge or out of centre locations will be permitted if, following an Impact Assessment, it would not have a significant adverse impact upon the vitality and viability of existing centres and on any committed, planned or proposed public or private investment in existing centres.

8.15 The policy sets out a retail hierarchy for the borough, reflecting the role and relationship of centres and parades in the borough’s retail network. These defined centres form the focal point for services and facilities serving the surrounding population. The boundaries of the town, district and local centres, and a Primary Shopping Area for Basingstoke Town Centre are defined on the policies map.
8.16 Basingstoke Town Centre is the principal centre in the borough. The district centres at Brighton Hill, Chineham, Overton, Tadley and Whitchurch have a significant role in maintaining and enhancing prosperity, serving the day-to-day needs of their local populations but also providing access to services for neighbouring areas across and beyond the borough. The local centre at Kingsclere also plays an important role for its village community. It is also recognised that small-scale convenience shops and local shopping parades play an important role in meeting the day-to day needs of local communities, and these are specifically protected in the community facilities policy (Policy INF3).
8.17 The council’s Retail and Main Town Centre Uses Study (2020) indicates that there is little capacity for new retail floorspace over the Plan period, and that in some parts of the borough floorspace demand is likely to decline. The policy therefore seeks to focus main town centre uses in the borough’s existing centres using the sequential and impact tests in national policy. It is recognised that new centres may come forward as part of major residential-led developments, and the impact of the proposed new floorspace should be assessed.  
8.18 In undertaking the sequential test, applicants will be expected to demonstrate appropriate flexibility in the format and scale of the proposed development. Where a proposal comprises more than one unit, the applicant should consider the ability of individual units to be disaggregated and accommodated in sequentially preferable locations.
8.19 The Plan sets a local floorspace threshold for the preparation of impact assessments. This applies to all retail proposals on the edge of or outside of the borough’s centres. The lower threshold is considered necessary as it will enable the council to monitor and maintain the overall vitality and viability of the borough’s smaller centres which are generally more dependent on frequent day-to-day convenience shopping and are more vulnerable to proposals for smaller format stores in edge and/or out-of-centre locations. Applications will be assessed on a case-by-case basis depending on the scale, location and format of new retail proposals and the council will be pragmatic as to the level of evidence required in support of such proposals as this should be proportionate to the nature of the proposal under consideration. It will not be necessary to consider the effects of minor proposals where the scope for significant adverse impacts is agreed to be limited.
8.20 The council will support proposals that improve the quality of design or connectivity of out of centre retailing such as retail parks where there is no increase in retail floor area.
Implementation and Monitoring

The policy will be implemented through:

  • Decisions on planning applications.

The policy will be monitored against:

  • Change in retail floorspace by use class.
  • Decisions on planning applications inside/outside of identified centres.
  • Health checks of the centres.