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First go at sequential testing...

Since Blue Sky Planning joined Montagu Evans in April of this year, the opportunity has arisen to become more involved in retail based planning projects.

As a graduate having started at Montagu Evans last September, I had received some insight into the retail planning domain and it was an area I felt that I would be interested to gain more experience in.

The Blue Sky Planning team have brought with them an abundance of well-established and highly reputable clients, including The Crown Estate and London Metric, and offer a wide range of retail orientated planning services on countless sites around the country.

I have become highly involved within a range of retail based projects, including making minor material amendments to an approved planning permission for a new retail park in Northamptonshire and, most recently, conducting a sequential retail assessment within Croydon and its surrounding town, district and local centres.

The sequential test aims to guide main town centre uses towards town centre locations, then, if no town centre locations are available, to edge of centre locations. If neither town centre locations nor edge of centre locations are available, then town centre uses may be allowed in out of town centre locations, with preference for accessible sites which are well connected to the town centre. The idea of the sequential test is to support the viability and vitality of town centres by placing existing town centres foremost in both plan-making and decision-taking.

This was my first experience of the sequential test, which involved me identifying all vacant retail (Use Class A) units within 13 town, district and local centres, as recognised by Croydon Council. To do this I initially utilised the town/district centre maps available on the GOAD system and then it was necessary for me to conduct a field assessment to identify the vacant units first hand and to note any other relevant information such as unit size and site characteristics. This was quite a time consuming task, spread across two days, and involved a lot of walking around and travelling between each of the centres. Unfortunately the weather was not on my side and I became quickly adept at managing a clipboard, maps, spreadsheets and an umbrella. Once back in the office, and after my maps had dried out, I had to map out all the vacant units and then identify any units within the town/district centres (preferred locations) which would be of a comparable size to that of our proposed development. It was then necessary to assess each of these units and assess their availability, suitability and viability. Whilst I am still to finalise this report, it is hoped that the sequential test conducted here will help to support our application for a mezzanine in an existing retail unit, which will substantially increase the retail floorspace, located within an out of town location.

I have now been informed that I will be assisting on a number of additional retail based planning projects and I am looking forward to developing my understanding and knowledge of retail planning further. 

Harriet Barber


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