11. Bexleyheath Town Centre
11.1 The Bexleyheath Town Centre Local (Action Area) Plan (BTCL(AA)P) was formally adopted on 1st February 1983. Outstanding proposals were carried forward to the adopted UDP in 1996. Implementation has been a major corporate priority of the Council and many of the policies and proposals have now been implemented. The Council has promoted and allocated resources to realise and consolidate the status of Bexleyheath as the Strategic Centre of the borough, and in particular has:
- secured development of four redevelopment areas:
- Broadway Shopping Centre (RAI)
- Broadway Square (RAII)
- Central Library (RAIII)
- Cinema (28-70 Broadway);
- constructed the Northern Distributor Road (Arnsberg Way) and Southern Relief Road (Albion Road) to improve accessibility and enable pedestrianisation of part of the Broadway;
- achieved the closure and landscaping of part of the Broadway to create a pedestrianised area;
- used its compulsory purchase powers and resources to assemble and equip suitably serviced sites for the comprehensive expansion of shopping, leisure and vehicle parking facilities;
- appointed a Town Centres Manager in conjunction with commercial partners; and
- attracted other development appropriate to a vibrant and successful Strategic Centre, e.g. luxury hotel, leisure facilities, improved public transport routes and interchange facilities.
11.2 The policies in this chapter aim to build on these achievements. They will help ensure the future prosperity of Bexleyheath and confirm its role as one of London's major commercial centres, and a civic centre for the borough, well into the 21st Century.
11.3 National Government policy guidance supports town centres as the main focus of shopping facilities, the modernisation and refurbishment of town centres and the important role to be played by private sector investment. The guidance recognises that local authorities should also be concerned about the cumulative effects of large out‑of‑centre proposals on their shopping centres. Systematic planning is advocated, which will take into account the needs of the town centre as a whole and lay down the framework for future development and growth. SERPLAN also recognise that local authorities should be concerned with enhancing the role of town centres as the focus of employment activities, shopping facilities, social and community services.
11.4 Several of the objectives of Strategic Guidance are relevant in framing future policies for Bexleyheath town centre. These are that planning policies should encourage the modernisation and renewal of town centres with consideration given to the possibility of pedestrianisation, to the provision of additional car parking and traffic management measures and to the importance of public transport.
11.5 The London Plan (2004) states that UDP Policies should enhance access to goods and services in town centres and strengthen their wider role through the inclusion of leisure and cultural activities, business and housing. Retail, leisure and other related uses should be discouraged outside town centres.
Bexleyheath Town Centre ‑ the borough‑wide context
11.6 Policy G11 in Part One of the Plan provides that the Council will continue to promote Bexleyheath as a Strategic Centre for major new retail, office and leisure development in the borough. Part Two Policy SHO1 identifies Bexleyheath as the borough's Strategic Centre.
11.7 The Council's approach to achieving this has the following elements:
- enhancing the quantity and quality of shopping floor space in the town centre;
- encouraging office development and other non‑retail uses, where appropriate, throughout the town centre;
- maintaining and promoting the civic and recreational role of the town centre and safeguarding appropriate residential accommodation;
- improving the environment, particularly through the pedestrianisation of part of Broadway;
- continuing to promote the accessibility of the town centre; and
- promoting the distribution of adequate and accessible vehicle parking for all users of the town centre.
As with other town centres, a range of uses are appropriate within Bexleyheath Town Centre. These are detailed at paragraph 4.33 of this Plan.
Shopping and service uses
11.8 To increase variety and choice for the wide range of users, Bexleyheath Town Centre requires a further improvement to its shopping facilities, both in terms of existing shops and in the provision of new floor space. The opening of Broadway Square since the adoption of the UDP in 1996 has contributed to this improvement.
The following principles will apply to any application for redevelopment abutting the pedestrianised area:
- Design and materials should be of a high standard, to reflect the status of the Strategic Centre. Massing, design, building lines and materials should be determined to contribute positively to the quality of public spaces created by the pedestrianisation scheme.
- To maintain the existing massing along Broadway, developments will need to be a minimum height of three storeys and a maximum of five.
- Shopping uses will be required at ground floor level within the core shopping frontage (Policy BTC2) with other appropriate uses at higher levels.
- Adequate rear servicing must be provided on properties within the area to be permanently pedestrianised.
11.9 The major redevelopment at Broadway Square and pedestrianisation of Broadway may encourage the redevelopment of small and outdated shops on the north side of Broadway to a higher density than at present. Planning Briefs to guide future development in the town centre will be produced as appropriate. This policy aims to ensure that future development is of a scale and quality to emphasise the importance of the Core shopping frontage and to encourage shoppers to circulate in the pedestrianised area. Well screened rear servicing will also create a better environment for shoppers. The provisions of Policies BTC10 and ENV39 will also apply.
The core shopping frontage will be:
- 45-131 (odd), 72-82 and 96-156 (even), Broadway;
- 1-17 (consec), Market Place;
- 1, Mayplace Road West;
- 1, Townley Road; and
- All properties in The Mall (Broadway Shopping Centre).
The non-core shopping frontage will be:
- Ohm Bar, Albion Road;
- Marriott Restaurant, Civic Offices, 41-45, 133-177, 177a, 179, 187-195, 213-237, 241-249, 255, 265-269 (odd), 2, 4, 4a, 6, 8, 20 28-70, 158-172 172a and b, 174-194, 198-206, 206a, 208a, 210, 210a, 212-228, 228a, 230-238, 238a, 240-244, 244a, 246, 248 (even) Broadway;
- 1 Church Road;
- 1, 3, 30 Erith Road;
- Connexions, Highland Road;
- 1 Lion Road;
- 2, Mayplace Road West;
- Working Men's Club, Royal Oak Road;
- Central Library, toilets, Townley Road; and
- 34, 40 Watling Street.
Within the core shopping frontage at ground floor level the Council will normally oppose uses other than:
- Class A1 shops;
- banks and building societies; and
- food and drink premises (Class A3), within the frontages of 1-17, Market Place and 96-156, Broadway only.
In determining applications in the defined core shopping frontage, Policy SHO4 will apply. Proposals for Class A3 use should, in addition, satisfy Policy SHO9.
11.10 Within the town centre there is a recognisable concentration of shops. This core frontage is the pedestrian area and represents the hub of pedestrian and shopper activity within the town centre. Where change of use or redevelopment is proposed, this will only be acceptable where a preferred use, as set out in 1-3 above, is provided at ground floor level. The enhancement of this focus of shopping activity in a safe, pleasant and convenient environment is critical to the maintenance and enhancement of Bexleyheath's role as a strategic shopping centre serving the borough and surrounding areas. Restaurants, take-aways, cafes and public houses can add vitality to pedestrianised streets, particularly outside normal shop trading hours. As an exception to the general restriction on A3 uses in core frontages, the Council will in principle, subject to Policy SHO9, support food and drink premises within the core shopping frontage on the northern side of Broadway and Market Place only. This side of the pedestrianised area has less pedestrian activity than the southern side. Restaurants and other A3 uses will be a draw to shoppers and thereby contribute to its vitality and viability and also provide for facilities for eating and drinking in pleasant surroundings close to the heart of the town centre.
In determining planning applications in the defined non-core shopping frontages, the Council will resist changes of use of shops (Use Class A1) at ground floor level to other uses that would harm the character, viability and vitality of, the centre. In particular, proposals will be expected to satisfy all of the following criteria:
- the proposed use is a food and drink outlet (Class A3) or a professional or financial service to the public (Class A2) or a use that will complement and contribute to the diversity of the services provided in the centre;
- the proposed use will not create or add to a concentration of a particular type of non-retail use within an area of non-core frontage where the cumulative effects could undermine the retail function or cause parking and traffic problems, or other adverse effects on local residential amenity and the environment;
- a. the proposed use is not located next to three or more average units in non-retail use or with planning permission for a non-retail use; and b. the proposal itself together with any adjacent existing or permitted non-retail uses, should not create a continuous length of frontage in non-retail use exceeding three average widths;
- the proposed non-retail use would not increase the proportion of average units in non-retail use in the centre as a whole to more than 45% of all units;
- the proposed use would not have an adverse effect on the character and environment, or the amenity of occupiers in the vicinity and parking and traffic conditions; and
- the proposal includes a shop-style fascia, with an appropriate window display at ground floor level.
Proposals for food and drink outlets (Class A3) should, in addition, satisfy Policy SHO9. In applying criterion 2 above, account will be taken of the matters set out following Policy SHO5.
11.11 These frontages provide a mixture of shopping and services, although they are essentially of retail character. Within these frontages a more flexible approach will be adopted. The provision of a range and variety of retail and non‑retail uses can contribute to the variety of activity and help enable Bexleyheath perform a strategic role. The policy supports a greater level of non‑retail uses provided they are interspersed to avoid undue erosion of the overall retail character. The submission of details at an early stage is important in this developed, mixed use area, to ensure that the full implications of proposed uses can be adequately assessed.
11.12 In, both core and non‑core frontages, a shop window display condition will be attached to any planning permission for change of use from retail to non‑retail use. Government advice notes that it is important that town centres retain their distinct character. Dispersal of non‑retail uses within the non‑core frontages will help maintain the role of a shopping centre by retaining frontages, which continue to stimulate activity and trade and retain their visual appearance. To achieve the dispersal of non‑retail uses the creation of a frontage of more than three average shop front widths in non‑retail use will normally be considered unacceptable. In line with Policy M1, the Council will monitor shopping patterns within the town centre.
Changes from financial and professional services uses to food and drink uses will be encouraged subject to criteria 2 and 4 specified in Policy BTC3 and subject to Policy SHO9.
11.13 Food and drink uses can enhance the character and vitality of a town centre. In addition to the non‑core frontage, food and drink uses will be allowed in the core frontage subject to there being no loss of retail floor space or frontage. To encourage such uses the Council may, where sites are unduly constrained, take into account available parking facilities in the immediate area.
Accommodation above shops ‑ small offices
The use of upper floor accommodation within the town centre for small office accommodation and other appropriate town centre uses will normally be encouraged except where:
- the proposal would result in the loss of residential premises capable of providing satisfactory residential accommodation; or
- servicing and parking arrangements are inadequate; or
- there is conflict with Policies E1, E14, BTC6 or BTC12.
11.14 The Council fully endorses the aim of Strategic Guidance to protect the existing housing stock and supports the role of housing in the town centre. However, it is also recognised that there are a number of appropriate but competing land use demands. In these circumstances the loss of residential accommodation no longer considered reasonably capable of continued use, or adaptation, may be permitted. There will also be a need to ensure that the proposed use does not cause nuisance to neighbours. Paragraph 11.20 outlines the relevant test for criterion 1. Criteria 2 and 3 ensure that proposals do not conflict with other policy objectives of this Plan.
The Council will encourage office developments, including changes of use and extensions, in the defined town centre, subject to the following criteria:
- the proposal will not result in the net loss of shopping floor space or frontage at ground floor level in the core shopping areas;
- the proposal is appropriate in scale, character and design with the surrounding area, where relevant, in accordance with Policy BTC1; and
- the proposal satisfies the conditions listed under Policies E1 and BTC5.
11.15 It has been a longstanding aim of the Council to encourage new office development in Bexleyheath as the borough's Strategic Centre. However, despite the identification of Bexleyheath town centre as the borough's preferred location for office growth, the rate of growth of office accommodation in recent years has not been great. The increased opportunities created by this Plan, including for small offices on upper floors in the town centre, will assist in the promotion of office growth, enhance the strategic role of the Centre, complement existing and planned shopping facilities and provide local employment.
Civic and recreational and leisure facilities
The Council will continue to promote Bexleyheath as one of the centres of civic activity within the borough.
The Council will seek to ensure the improvement of existing leisure, recreation and cultural facilities and promote the development of new activities in the town centre.
11.16 The promotion of civic and recreational facilities will continue to play an important role in the development of the multi‑functional strategic role of Bexleyheath town centre. The Council recognises the importance of facilities such as the Central Library, cinemas, social clubs, bingo and public houses as venues for recreation and leisure pursuits. It is the Council's intention to promote commercial leisure and recreation uses and civic activities within the town centre in order to enhance its role as the borough's Strategic Centre. Dual use of the good quantity of vehicle parking at Bexleyheath for leisure and off‑peak use will be encouraged.
Small scale industrial and distribution uses
The Council will encourage the protection of existing small scale industrial distribution and storage uses and restrict any new or expanding small scale uses (the introduction of special industrial uses will not be allowed) to sites to the rear of 174‑228, Broadway subject to:
- the proposal, including related alterations and equipment, not detracting from the character or appearance of the area;
- the incorporation of adequate servicing facilities, which must be effectively screened from the town park or sited so as not to adversely affect amenities of adjoining occupiers; and
- the proposal does not conflict with Policy E1 or other policies in this Plan.
11.17 It is the Council's aim to retain existing small scale industrial uses in accordance with Government policy, where they do not cause nuisance or such nuisance can be remedied. There is a concentration of small workshops, warehouses and garages on the land to the rear of l74‑228 Broadway. The Council's policy is to improve the environmental quality of the Christ Church area (Policy BTC11). This will be an important consideration in determining any proposal. These businesses support the function and activities within the town centre, create local employment and are situated in an appropriate and unobtrusive location behind Broadway.
Environment and design
The Council will require all development to be of a high standard of design relating well to neighbouring development and respecting local scale and character. The Council will pay particular attention to upgrading and uplifting the quality of townscape and environment within the Strategic Centre. All development should also satisfy the provisions of ENV39.
11.18 The Council seeks to ensure that all development makes a positive contribution to the town centre by virtue of a high standard of design and layout. It is not the Council's intention to unduly interfere with design, but it does consider it is important to upgrade the centre and high standards of design, reflecting a scale and character appropriate to the Strategic Centre, should be applied. To reflect the scale and character of the Strategic Centre developments should be between 3 and 5 floors high. This policy will apply to new development, refurbishment and alterations to existing buildings and frontages within the town centre. The Council will also continue to invest in environmental improvements to the centre.
The Council will seek to improve the environmental quality of the Christ Church area and pedestrianised area, enhance the quality and increase the use of the Town Park as an important feature of the Strategic Centre.
11.19 The pedestrianised area incorporates the principal zone of pedestrian movement. At the eastern end is the Market Place area, which is the main townscape focus activity in the town centre. Christ Church provides a break in shopping frontage at the western end of the centre. The Council will seek to improve the environment of these important areas of the town centre for the benefit of all users. Any new developments will also be required to make a positive contribution to the improvement of the visual quality and general environment of these areas. The Town Park provides an important contrast to the busy pedestrian area, providing conveniently sited quiet walks and children's play areas within the town centre. Public awareness of this facility is limited due to its location. The Council will promote the quality and use of the park as an integral feature of the town centre, by improving the linkage from the Broadway and securing a more pleasant environment wherever possible. In this context upgrading the tree‑lined avenue linking the park and Broadway is of particular importance.
The Council will resist proposals, which would either:
- result in the loss of residential premises capable of providing satisfactory residential accommodation; or
- have an adverse effect on the privacy and amenity of the occupiers of neighbouring residential premises.
11.20 The Council recognises the residential role of the town centre, and that the balance of advantages and disadvantages is particularly appropriate for non‑family housing. The Council will seek to retain and enhance the residential role of the town centre and immediately adjacent areas and the amenity and quality of life of residents. The promotion of non‑family housing within the centre, will help bring life and increase activity outside the shopping hours in the town centre and protect a supply of lower cost accommodation. Where it can be demonstrated by the applicant that the cost of adapting residential accommodation to current minimum standards cannot be justified financially and the premises are not sought for acquisition by a Housing Association or similar body, the Council will be prepared to relax its policy and consider alternative uses, provided the amenity or privacy of neighbouring residential occupiers is not undermined as a consequence. In all cases, it is important that accommodation provides, or could provide, adequate amenities to ensure an acceptable quality of life for occupiers.
The Council will encourage the provision of new, purpose-designed, residential accommodation within the town centre. It will also encourage the use of upper floor accommodation for residential purposes, either through the re-use of areas previously designed for residential use or the conversion of areas from other uses. All proposals involving residential development should secure a good environment for residents. In addition to the appropriate standards of internal space, privacy and daylight outlined in the Plan and guidelines, provision of an independent access to the residential accommodation will be required.
11.21 In line with the Council's housing policies and the recognised residential role of the town centre, the Council will encourage the provision of good quality residential accommodation. Proposals, which would provide poor amenities for occupiers, will be resisted or will be required to be amended to an acceptable standard.
The Council will continue to promote public and private accessibility to the town centre within the constraints imposed by the environmental and planned road space capacity along approach routes.
11.22 Despite high car ownership levels in the borough, not every household has the use of a car. Moreover, the existence of good quality and convenient public transport links will enable shoppers with access to a car to choose to use public transport instead, thus supporting the Council's objectives for transport. Many users of Bexleyheath depend on public transport or walking. Others also cycle to Bexleyheath. The Council will continue to improve private and public accessibility to and from the town centre by reviewing on and off street parking provision and traffic management measures. In addition, liaison will be carried out with public transport operators to improve accessibility and safeguard existing facilities such as bus stands in Bexleyheath for all users of the town centre. These will be assessed within the planned road capacity of approach routes. Proposals will also take account of the impact on the environmental amenities of occupiers adjacent to road routes.
All proposals for redevelopment or extensions should incorporate adequate off‑street servicing facilities, which must be effectively screened or sited so as not to adversely affect amenities of adjoining occupiers. No servicing or loading will be permitted from the pedestrianised area.
11.23 The Council will ensure that all proposals within the town centre incorporate well-screened, off‑street servicing areas, which are sufficient to ensure that the functioning of the development does not adversely impact on highway movement or safety. A better environment for shoppers will be achieved by the removal of servicing and loading from the pedestrianised area.
All development should provide vehicle parking in accordance with the Council's adopted parking standards set out in Policy T17.
11.24 Whilst encouraging greater use of public transport, it is the Council's aim to provide sufficient essential vehicle car and cycle parking for all potential users of the town centre to enhance its attractiveness and role as the borough's Strategic Centre. It is the Council's aim that development should relate to the planned capacity of the road system (Policy T6 refers).