Chapter 8: Retailing

Photograph of a Balerno street


8.1 Shopping provision in Rural West Edinburgh is varied and includes an established 'High Street' at Queensferry, smaller village centres like Balerno and Kirkliston, more recent local parades in Currie, and other small groups and individual units. Only Queensferry's shopping centre contains an element of comparison as well as convenience shopping, with shops in this centre selling a mixture of food items and non-food durable items such as clothes. Queensferry is, therefore, likely to have a wider attraction or catchment area than the other towns and villages. The residents of Rural West Edinburgh typically travel to the city centre, the Gyle or Livingston for comparison shopping, leaving local shopping centres heavily dependent on food and other day-to-day convenience retailing. The dominant retailer, in terms of numbers of shops in Rural West Edinburgh, is currently Scotmid with six stores in five towns and villages. The two largest stores are both in Queensferry: the Scotmid unit on The Loan and the more recent Tesco supermarket at Ferrymuir which recently acquired planning permission for an extension of 1,000 sq. m.

8.2 In recent years altered shopping trends and increased competition have led to some change in the role of local centres in Rural West Edinburgh. This is particularly evident in Queensferry, where there has been an increase in non-retail units, and Balerno, where the proportion of vacant units has increased.

8.3 Increases in population in Rural West Edinburgh towns and villages should help underpin existing shopping facilities and encourage new and improved ones. As part of some new housing development, small- scale new shopping provision has been secured, for example at Balerno Bank Mills. The emergence of the Gyle Centre has had a significant impact on local expenditure. In general, there is no need for major new shopping developments which are targeted at non-local catchment populations in Rural West Edinburgh, though some small-scale retail development may be appropriate to supplement local provision.

8.4 Environmental problems caused by increased traffic flows are common to all Rural West centres with the exception of Balerno, where the centre has been pedestrianised, and the Scotstoun neighbourhood centre in Queensferry. At Currie and in the centre of Queensferry, levels of through traffic and parking provision result in congestion and road safety problems, particularly for pedestrians. In Ratho and Kirkliston the levels of noise and pollution resulting from through traffic significantly detract from the residential and shopping environment. These issues are linked more generally with the environmental improvement of town centres as a whole and are dealt with in the Environment and Transport chapters.

8.5 The Royal Highland Showground at Ingliston is considered in Chapter 6. The north-west part of the site comprises a large car park, which has for many years accommodated a Sunday Market. Land close to the airport and showground is a valuable resource and may be needed for their future expansion needs. The future of the market, which operates with a temporary planning consent will be determined in this context once key strategic land use decisions have been made.

National Planning Context

8.6 The Scottish Executive Development Department issued a revised National Planning Policy Guideline 'Town Centres and Retailing' in October 1998 (NPPG 8). This sets out Government policies for town centres and retail developments, clarifying the commitment to protecting and enhancing town centres and extending policy control to commercial leisure developments. The broad policy objectives are:

8.7 NPPG 8 advises planning authorities to take a 'sequential approach' to selecting sites for new development with first preference always being given to development opportunities in town centres, followed by edge-of-centre sites and only then by out-of-centres sites in locations which are, or can be made easily accessible, by a choice of means of transport and which can be shown to have an acceptable impact on the vitality and viability of existing centres. The NPPG suggests a series of 'healthcheck' indicators to assess vitality and viability of centres. Within Rural West Edinburgh, Queensferry has had a form of healthcheck assessment through the work of the Historic Burghs Association '17 Small Towns' survey. The sequential test also applies to proposals to create new or expand existing retail parks and to commercial leisure developments.

8.8 Planning authorities should aim to improve environmental quality in town centres by promoting good urban and building design, creating a sense of place and fostering local identity for towns of historic character; they should also take a proactive role towards town centre change and improvement. The term 'town centre' in the NPPG is used to cover a city, town or district centre, irrespective of size, which provides a broad range of facilities and services and which fulfils a function as a focus for both the community and public transport. The Structure Plan authorities are currently undertaking work to clarify how this definition applies to Edinburgh and the Lothians and identify those centres which meet the NPPG8 definition.

8.9 The maintenance of the retail function in smaller centres and the role of local shops in villages and neighbourhoods is also emphasised. As elsewhere, out- of- centre retail developments should not be allowed if likely to lead to a reduction in the range of local facilities, affect the diversity of shops, or lead to the loss of general food retailing. The implications for village shops should be fully assessed in any proposals for new retail development in nearby towns.

Structure Plan Context

8.10 The Edinburgh and the Lothians Structure Plan 2015 accords with NPPG 8. It identifies town centres and other major shopping centres and takes a sequential approach to accommodating major new retail or commercial developments. None of the identified strategic centres are in Rural West Edinburgh; the nearest such centres include Corstorphine, the Gyle, Wester Hailes, Hermiston Gait, the Almondvale centre at Livingston, and Broxburn/Uphall.

8.11 The ELSP acknowledges the importance of local centres. Local plans are required to: (a) assess the adequacy of local shopping facilities and make appropriate provision to protect centres of local importance and to meet any deficiencies and (b) to make appropriate provision for new local shopping facilities, particularly in areas of planned housing growth.

Local Plan Objectives

8.12 This plan, in line with the strategy set out in the Structure Plan, continues to treat Rural West Edinburgh as an area of restraint for major new development. It is unlikely that local spending power in itself could support large scale new retailing; new car trips would be attracted from other areas, contrary to the aims of fostering sustainable development. Accordingly, large new retail developments are considered unnecessary and will not be permitted in the plan area. Proposals with more than local catchments will not accord with the plan's strategy of restraint.

8.13 Within this strategic context the local plan recognises the importance of local and village centres and makes provision for small-scale, locally oriented developments. The area's local centres and groups of shops are convenient for large numbers of shoppers as they reduce the need to travel and are vital for those with no access to a car.

8.14 The plan's principal aim for shopping is, therefore, to both protect existing facilities and allow for improvements to the range of retail uses in the local and village centres, where appropriate, to meet local needs. In pursuing this objective, the Council must take into account shopping needs throughout Edinburgh and the likely impact of new proposals both within and outwith Rural West Edinburgh on existing shopping centres. Suitable opportunities and measures to improve the shopping environment within the local plan area will also be supported.


Support and Protection for Existing Shops

8.15 The Council wants to maintain the viability of shopping centres but also recognises that they are appropriate locations for a range of non-retail services which are compatible with shopping areas and provide a direct service to the public. These generally fall within classes 2 and 3 of the Use Classes Order and include banks, estate agencies, medical surgeries and restaurants. Former shop units may also be suitable for small artisan businesses (Class 4) which provide local economic development opportunities, day long activity and in some cases an alternative to vacancy. Other uses can also be included which do not fall into any use class, for example public houses, hot food takeaways and amusement arcades. Such uses can add to the interest of a centre and widen employment opportunities but an excessive proportion within a centre could reduce pedestrian flows, detract from its shopping character and undermine the viability of village centres.

8.16 The Council, therefore, seeks to maintain the highest practical level of retailing by identifying frontages within the shopping centres of this local plan's area where a level of provision will be protected. Within these, changes of use which would be wholly inappropriate in a centre, will be resisted. Specifically, the change of use of any unit to residential is not acceptable.

8.17 Queensferry has a high- street of a scale which enables the definition of separate frontages, each of which could contain a proportion of non-shopping uses. There is also a neighbourhood shopping centre at Scotstoun Grove. The location of shop groups in Currie and the groupings on Balerno Main Street and Kirkliston Main Street also allows the definition of such frontages for these areas. These are indicated on the Proposals Map and are defined as follows:

Protection for Existing Shops
Area Shop Numbers
  • 25 to 43 Hopetoun Road (south side), Queensferry
  • 10 to 16 Hopetoun Road (north side), Queensferry
  • 2 to 4 Hopetoun Road, north side
  • 1 to 2 Bell Stane
  • 3 to 9 High Street, north side
  • 10 to 25 High Street, north side
  • 27 to 35 High Street, north side
  • 12 to 16 West Terrace
  • 5 to 7 Mid Terrace
  • 42 to 52 High Street, south side
  • Scotstoun Shopping Centre, Scotstoun Grove
  • 120 to 124 Lanark Road West and 56 to 62 Bryce Road (one group)
  • Pentland View Court, Currie
  • 13 to 17 Bryce Road / 1 to 9 Corslet Place (one group)
  • 15 to 29 Main Street
  • 16 to 46 Main Street
Kirkliston Main Street
  • 22-88 Main Street
  • 15-35 Main Street

8.18 In Newbridge, Ratho and Ratho Station it is not appropriate, given the small numbers of shop units, to identify frontages or centres. However, given the levels of housing this plan proposes in these villages, the aim is to retain retail units at existing levels.

Policy R1 - Changes of Use in Shopping Centres

Proposals for the change of use of a ground floor shop unit (or a vacant unit last used for shopping purposes) in a shopping frontage listed in paragraph 8.17 will be permitted provided:

  1. the proposal falls within classes 1, 2, 3 or 4 of the Use Classes Order, or is otherwise an appropriate shopping centre use and compatible with the centre's retail function; and
  2. the proposed use would not be detrimental to the amenity of any nearby housing, or to the retail character of the centre.

Within these centres, the change of use of any ground floor unit to housing or any other use detrimental to the centre's vitality and viability will not be permitted.

8.19 Single convenience shops outwith local centres and parades play a vital role in serving neighbourhood needs and should be retained, wherever possible. The Council recognises that community-based initiatives to retain and support corner shops and post offices can be particularly effective and are to be encouraged.

Policy R2 - Retention of Convenience Shopping

In areas outwith the local centres, frontages and villages, referred to in Policy R1, proposals which would result in the loss of a single convenience shopping unit, which serves a clear neighbourhood need, will not be permitted unless suitable alternative facilities either exist or would be provided. Community-based and other initiatives to retain local shops and post offices and safeguard their viability will be supported.

Improving the Shopping Environment

8.20 The commercial attractiveness and competitiveness of a shopping area is greatly affected by the quality of the external environment together with the convenience and comfort with which shoppers can travel to and within it. High design standards for new development, advertising and shopfront alterations are important factors in achieving and maintaining a positive image and attractive appearance. The quality of the street environment, ranging from street furniture to landscape features, is also important. The Council, therefore, seeks to promote measures which will improve street environments, improve accessibility, safety and ease of movement, and which meet the special needs of the disabled and people with children.

Policy R3 - Improving the Shopping Environment

Proposals to improve the public environment of shopping centres and groups of shops will be supported, particularly where they provide:

  1. measures to improve pedestrian safety;
  2. measures to improve access for public transport, cyclists and
  3. appropriate additional off-street car parking for short-term
  4. new or improved facilities for shoppers with children;
  5. new or improved facilities for disabled people.

New Retail Development

8.21 In accordance with the ELSP and the sequential approach to retail location set out in NPPG8, new large-scale retail developments should be accommodated in defined town centres and other major shopping centres in Edinburgh or West Lothian, close to centres of population and where public transport access is easiest. In Rural West Edinburgh, the Council supports proposals of an appropriate size and nature within, or if not practicable, adjacent to local centres and shop groups in order to meet local needs, consolidate provision and extend choice. The same sequential approach applies to proposals to significantly extend existing facilities.

8.22 In applying this approach, only those local centres within the forecast catchment area of the proposed development, and capable of serving broadly the same population, would qualify for consideration as alternative locations.

8.23 Where retail development is proposed outwith local centres, a range of tests are applied to ensure the environment is protected, transport efficiency is achieved and the health of centres is not undermined. Such schemes need, for example, to show that no suitable site is available in, then beside existing centres, retail impact would be acceptable and local residential amenity would be safeguarded.

8.24 In new housing areas or existing areas poorly served by small convenience shops, the introduction of a new 'corner shop', a new unit next to an existing small group of shops or the extension of an existing small shop will rarely impact adversely on existing centres and can foster healthy competition. The aim is, therefore, to provide flexibility in allowing such minor facilities without the need to meet all the criteria otherwise applied to new retail developments. A threshold of 200 sq. m. gross floor area for single new units, either on their own or associated with small shop groups, is generally appropriate to allow this flexibility, whilst protecting existing centres and residential amenity.

Policy R4 - Large-scale Retail Development

Proposals for retail development, which would serve a catchment area extending significantly beyond Rural West Edinburgh, will not be permitted.

Policy R5 - In-centre Retail Development

Proposals for retail development will be supported on suitable sites in the defined local centres and frontages identified in Policy R1, provided they would be appropriate in scale and character.

Policy R6 - Edge-of-centre Retail Development

Proposals for retail development will be supported on suitable sites adjacent to the local centres and frontages identified in Policy R1, provided:

  • proposals would be appropriate in scale and character; and
  • it can be shown that no suitable site is available in the adjacent local centre or frontage, or in any other such areas within the catchment area of the proposal.

Policy R7 - Out-of-centre Retail Development

Proposals for retail development in locations outwith local centres and frontages will only be permitted where it can be shown that no suitable site is available firstly in, then adjacent to, such locations within the catchment area of the proposal, and where all the following criteria are met:

  1. the proposal would tackle quantitative or qualitative deficiencies in local shopping facilities;
  2. the proposal would not individually, or cumulatively, prejudice the vitality or viability of any local shopping centre or frontage in the local plan area;
  3. the proposal would be, or could be made, easily accessible by regular and frequent public transport services;
  4. the proposed location is within the existing or planned urban area;
  5. local residential amenity would not be adversely affected.

Policy R8 - Small-scale Retail Development

Notwithstanding the terms of the above policies, new corner shops or new shops associated with existing small shopping groups outwith local centres and frontages will be acceptable provided:

  1. they would not exceed 200 square metres gross floor area; and
  2. the location is not within reasonable walking distance of a defined centre or frontage; and
  3. there would be no significant adverse affect on local residential amenity.

Small-scale extensions to existing shops will also be acceptable provided local residential amenity would not be adversely affected.

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