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The proposed Stanway Strategic Economic Area allocation is intended to replace the existing Strategic Employment Zone and Urban District Centre allocations in the adopted Local Plan. All Urban District Centre allocations in the adopted Local Plan are proposed to be replaced. This is a material proposed change.
We object to the Council seeking to remove the District Centre designation for Stanway. We understand that the prefix 'urban' as used in the adopted Local Plan is superfluous and can be deleted, but the existing retail facilities should remain at the heart of a Stanway District Centre for the planned growth area of West Colchester and should be designated as such.
The area is proposed to be designated as the Stanway Strategic Economic Area (Zone 2). Specifically, the current function of Zone 2 as a mixed use commercial area will be safeguarded and proposals for development which are considered complementary to existing uses will be supported. Valad generally agrees with this approach, however the Council must ensure that the policy allows sufficient flexibility to allow for existing retail stores to adapt to changing retail trends.
An objective for development in emerging policy is to transform the character of the Tollgate area to become an attractive and economically vibrant hub for the growing population, building on its success as a retail and commercial destination. The area is already accessible and sustainable, and this is confirmed through its inclusion in the wider allocation for a growth area for West Colchester. These circumstances warrant the designation of a District Centre and it is inconsistent to promote this objective whilst removing the policy protection for these important areas.
Emerging policy seeks to restrict the expansion of retail uses in the existing Urban District Centre area, presumably to encourage such development to go to Colchester town centre. However, whilst Valad is supportive of policy which strengthens and protects the primary retail centre in the Borough, directing all retail development to Colchester town centre does not represent the most sustainable spatial strategy, particularly given the amount and location of planned housing and employment growth across the Borough, and all existing retail centres should continue to benefit from policy status and protection.
If a retail proposal was made for the Stanway District Centre that was deemed out of scale for a district centre, the retail tests of impact and sequential approach as set out in the NPPF would likely be triggered. Therefore, there would always be a means of measuring a proposal's likely effect on Colchester town centre, even allowing for policy to continue to support further development at the district centres in principle.
Valad considers that the existing retail facilities at Stanway should remain at the heart of a Stanway District Centre for the planned growth area of West Colchester and should be designated as such. Valad objects to the proposed removal of the centre designation.