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FOCUS ON PROPERTY: What does the future hold for Dorset town centres?

Posted on: 19/11/2021

The challenges faced by the UK’s highstreets and town centres have been clear for all to see over the past 18 months.

But as more people return to work and following on from the recent announcement of Bournemouth’s ranking as the 4th happiest place to live and work, are we rounding a corner, and will our town centres follow suit?

If the recent £22 million ‘Town Deal’ funding to deliver ambitious regeneration plans for Boscombe town centre is anything to go by, then the future looks bright.

Together with the consultation due on the region’s new BCP-wide Local Plan, it is an exciting time of potential for Dorset’s town centres.

The Local Plan will provide a framework of policies and site allocations to guide future development across the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole area, and we are likely to see a flurry of sites promoted for development as a result.

Eleven sites with a gross development value of more than £2 billion have been earmarked for regeneration by BCP Council, and the interests of the region’s town centres have been protected with the creation of BCP Futureplaces Ltd – a new urban regeneration company.

When it comes to town centre regeneration, however, could recent planning changes hamper progress across BCP towns?

Over the summer, permitted development rights (PDR) were extended and a “higher threshold” for the use of ‘Article 4’ directions by local councils, was implemented.

The changes have the potential to deliver a significant amount of conversion of buildings from non-residential to residential in town centres, which would allow much needed footfall back into these areas.

Whilst this can only be positive in town centre regeneration terms, the changes remove the ability of local councils to steer PDR development within their local area, despite what might be laid out in the Local Plan.

This will be particularly detrimental for local authorities without significant landholdings in their town centres, as they will now have a lot less control over what is developed there.

To understand more about what the latest PDR planning changes mean for your town centre regeneration plans and to submit development sites to the BCP Council Local Plan for allocation, our Bournemouth-based planning team can help.

Ben Christian, Associate – Planning at Vail Williams

T: 01202 558 262 | E: | W:

This article is featured in the November issue of the Dorset Business Focus magazine. Read on the online version here.


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