Draft Thanet Local Plan - 2031 - Pre-Submission Publication, Regulation 19

2 - Town Centre Strategy

2.1 The town centre strategy sets out how Thanet's town centres will develop, the inter-relationship between them, and how the towns' commercial functions will support and contribute to the overall economic strategy for the district.

2.2 The National Planning Policy Framework states that planning policies should be positive and promote competitive town centre environments and set out policies for their management and growth over the plan period. Plans should recognise town centres as the heart of the community and pursue their vitality and viability. A network of centres should be defined that reflects the relationship between them in order to guide future development.

2.3 The strategy for Thanet's town centres seeks to reinforce the different but complementary roles of the primary centre at Westwood and of the coastal town centres of Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs. The objectives of the hierarchy are to:

  • Safeguard and sustain Westwood's role in preventing retail expenditure leaking outside the district.
  • Enable the coastal towns to achieve and maintain a viable, diverse and sustainable commercial base.
  • Ensure the scale of development at the District and Local Centres is sufficient to serve local catchments but not harmful to the function of the town centres.
  • Allow residential development in locations that support the function of the town centres.

2.4 The Council is required to set out a network and hierarchy of centres. Identifying the existing hierarchy provides an understanding of the role and function of the town centres and their inter-relationship. A major factor in determining the role of the centres is the catchment which they serve. Canterbury is the pre-dominant centre in the wider sub region of East Kent. Thanet's hierarchy of centres is set out below:

2.5 Westwood - this centre sits at the top of the hierarchy as it caters for high order need, attracts the major national retailers and has a catchment that covers the whole of Thanet as well extending to areas outside of the district.

2.6 Coastal Town Centres - Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate. The catchments of these town centres are their individual town populations and tourist trade with a wide range of shops to cater for everyday need, special interest and tourism. These towns have traditionally attracted national retailers and services as well as local businesses.

2.7 District Centres - Cliftonville, Westgate, Birchington and Minster. These centres cater for local needs and services. They serve large residential and semi-rural locations but catchments are limited and these locations are not appropriate for large scale retail development.

2.8 Local Centres - Several across the district such as Westbrook and St Peter's. These cater for a more restricted local need and tend to have a small catchment. These centres provide services such as takeaways, hairdressers and small convenience stores. Business is often local rather than the national multiples. These centres are not appropriate for large scale retail development.

2.9 The retail hierarchy demonstrates an understanding of how town centres interact with one another at district and sub-regional levels. It is not designed to favour one centre over another and does not in itself direct investment decisions.

2.10 Thanet currently retains 84% of retail expenditure within the district and given this healthy retention rate there is no need to increase Thanet's market share within the sub region. However, in order to maintain the current market share the following growth will be required over the plan period:

  • 24,567 square metres of floorspace selling comparison (high street style) goods. The majority of this is needed at Westwood which requires 16,787 square metres.
  • 1,255 square metres of floorspace selling convenience goods and 4,338 square metres of A1-A5 floorspace is needed across Thanet.

2.11 Convenience retailing is currently skewed towards the large supermarkets clustered around the Westwood area and this trend is likely to continue. However, the Council would like to encourage more convenience provision within the coastal town centres.

2.12 In addition to this, an assessment has been made of other uses that are traditionally found in high street locations and support the retail function of centres - these include uses such as banks, building societies, restaurants, take aways, and drinking establishments and are known in planning terms as the A2-A5 use classes. The assessment concluded that a total of 9,560 square metres of such floorspace is needed in the district to support the retail function of town centres. Much of this is shown to be needed at Westwood although uses such as restaurants would support the tourism appeal of the coastal town centres.

2.13 Town centres are hubs of the community and as such are not just retail areas. They contain a number of uses including leisure and tourism. Although no need for major commercial leisure facilities such as cinemas has been identified, there is a need to be flexible within the town centres in order to support the tourism economy.

Table 1 below sets out the retail need for Thanet's town centres:


Convenience sqm

Comparison (high street goods) sqm

A2-A5 uses sqm

Total Need sqm






















Policy SP06 - Thanet's Town Centres

Provision is made for a range of town centre uses reflecting the individual role, character and heritage of the town centres, including provision for retail development as referred in Table 1 above. See policies SP07 to SP10 respectively.

*This gives an indication of the quantitative level of retail need and shouldn't be applied rigidly. It should be regarded as a guide rather than a target.