Ministers have re-emphasised the importance of the town centre first policy in a letter to chief planning officers from Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) chief planner Steve Quartermain.
The policy, which is set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), requires local authorities to apply a sequential test for planning applications for main town centre uses, prioritising town centres and then edge of centre locations. Applications must only be located in sites out of the centre if suitable sites are not available.
“Ministers wish to restate policy which makes clear that where an application fails to satisfy the sequential test or is likely to have significant adverse impact on the town centre as set out in the NPPF, it should be refused,” Quartermain says in the letter, issued this week.
He writes that it is for local authorities to ensure that the town centre first approach has been followed, but adds that “this does not mean that out-of-centre development is necessarily inappropriate”.
The letter also says that ministers wish to highlight the planning guidance ‘Ensuring the viability of town centres’ and specifically the section ‘How should the sequential test be used in decision-taking?’
“This sets out the considerations that local authorities should take into account when determining whether a proposal complies with the sequential test, including that due regard should be given to the requirement to demonstrate flexibility,” Quartermain writes.
“This includes whether the suitability of more central sites to accommodate the proposal has been considered and the scope for flexibility in the format and/or scale of the proposal.”
From Planning Resource