Landmark planning win for Lawrences

Lawrence Graham is celebrating a “landmark” planning ruling after convincing an inquiry that a proposed development 600 metres from a town centre was “edge of centre” rather than “out of centre”.

Planning partner Trevor Blaney used a shopping survey to persuade the planning inquiry that the two retail stores planned by his clients BT and Globus Office World were within easy walking distance of Canterbury town centre. Canterbury Council, which had refused the development planning permission, was represented by barrister Eian Caws.

Until now, retail sites more than 300 metres from the centre have been defined as “out of centre”, making it difficult to obtain planning permission from authorities keen to minimise out-of-town shopping.

But planning policy guidance notes also say that shops “within easy walking distance from the centre” can be defined as “edge of centre”. Blaney argued that shoppers who visited the city centre regularly found time to fit in a walk to a store next to the proposed development. He produced a shopper survey to back up his case.

Blaney said that the case was a sign that planning policy guidance was beginning to be interpreted more liberally. In September 1996, for example, planning permission was granted for a shopping site 400 metres from the centre of Chard, as it was neither “out of centre” nor “edge of centre” but “adjacent to the centre” – a category not mentioned in planning guidance notes.