Councils should be given more powers under the planning system to protect small shops, says a report by the London Assembly.

The Assembly’s planning and housing committee suggests “corner shops” should get protected status in local, regional and national planning policies. It says London boroughs should identify them as “essential services” that are central to the concept of “lifetime neighbourhoods” and restrict change of use so as to protect shops within walking distance of residential areas.

It recommends a change in planning rules to distinguish between “essential” retail shop uses such as grocers, bakers, butchers, greengrocers and newsagents and “service” based uses, and that planning permission should be required to change between them.

Deputy chair of the committee, Jenny Jones said: “People in residential areas need local shops that provide essential services that they can walk to. They do not need rows of betting shops and internet cafes, or to have to travel to supermarkets by car.” 

She called on London mayor Boris Johnson to “empower boroughs to take back control of their high streets and protect local shops from further decline.”

ACS chief executive James Lowman called the report “an important and timely intervention into a vitally crucial policy debate.”
“We agree that every Council has a role to play in promoting local shops,” he said. “They must proactively plan for the protection and growth of their local shops and neighbourhood shopping centres. Too many Council’s have no such plans in place and are forced to react piecemeal to an agenda dominated by the supermarket developers.”

Read the report here