Draft Shopfront Design Guide Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) - July 2019

Draft North Somerset Council Shopfront Design Guide - July 2019

Change of Use - Use Class A Properties to Residential Use

This section provides guidance concerning the change of a building from Use Class A to residential use.

North Somerset Council’s policy position on this form of change of use is stated in chapter 9 of the Development Management Policies covering policies DM60: Town centres to DM64: Primary shopping frontages.

We recognise that retailing is changing and that there is less need for retail units and we consider that vacant shop units detract from a thriving centre.

  • We wish to see more people living in town centres, living above active ground floor uses and as part of mixed use schemes.
  • We support shops in peripheral areas being converted to residential rather than remaining empty. However poor quality conversions need to be avoided.

Within primary shopping frontages defined on the Policies Map, proposals for a change of use at ground floor level from A1 will only be permitted if the proposal is for an A Class use.

Figure 9: Residential conversion minimising the loss of character, Weston-super-Mare

 figure 9

National permitted development rights play an important role in helping high streets adapt to changes in how people shop and use the high street. These rights support new businesses and encourage further diversity on the high street, allowing a greater change of use to support high streets to adapt and diversify and change to a wider range of uses, allowing more leisure and community uses such as gyms, libraries, health care and office use as well as homes.

Permitted development for the conversion of A1 (shops) and A2 (professional and financial services) to residential use is already in place, subject to prior approval and a floorspace limit of 150 square metres and subject to a number of conditions including the design or external appearance of the building.

Conversion of A1 and A2 uses to residential is not a permitted development right if the building is within a conservation area, is a listed building or a scheduled monument.

Changing a building with A Class use to residential in a conservation will require a planning application.

Key principle 5 – Residential conversions of shops should seek to retain original shop front features where these are of historic interest and/or contribute to the character of the area

Where shop fronts of poor design have been incorporated into domestic buildings, windows and doors should reflect the original street design and first floor fenestration. High quality creative design solutions will be considered where these enhance the character of the area.

The most attractive examples of where a former shop has changed to a residential use, the identity of the building often remains unaltered. The shop window is maintained, quite often with its original frames and glazing. The corporate image of the shop is removed. New occupants typically apply a form of privacy screening, be it a layer of opaque film to the inside of the glazing up to an appropriate height to prevent passers-by looking in, or alternatively internal blinds are installed. Internal timber shutters may also be used, and these physical methods to support the change of use are supported.

The key requirement is to maintain a sense of identity of past use, possibly for reverting back to commercial use in the future but mainly for ensuring that visual interest and diversity of ground floor frontages is maintained across the area. The most appropriate approach will depend on the individual circumstances of the property.

In maintaining an original shopfront, a new glazed partition can be built internally, creating a small conservatory or lobby behind the original frame. Such an approach will be supported as the new partition provides additional acoustic and thermal protection, and can include ventilation grills or opening window sections. 

Removing shopfronts in their entirety and infilling with blockwork, external render or other equally unsympathetic form of external wall construction along with windows and doors that are out of character will not be permitted in the conservation area as such an approach fails to preserve or enhance the character or appearance of that area.

Planning applications will be expected to demonstrate that as well as featuring an appropriately designed and detailed conversion to residential use, they will also identify site wide enhancements to benefit the improvement of the conservation area. Each case will be different and it is not possible to state exactly what enhancements will be required as much will depend on the existing condition of the building or site and whether any enhancement works have already been carried out. This should be discussed on a case-by-case basis with the council’s development management and urban design officers through the planning application process.

Consideration of conversion of upper floors to residential

We actively encourage the conversion of upper floors to residential accommodation. Occupation of upper floors could prevent vermin infestation and criminal intrusion

Maintenance and repairs to upper and residential parts will prevent deterioration and reduce any damage to shop from these parts.

The following points should be taken into consideration when planning an upper floor conversion:

  • Access arrangements to the upper floors should be considered in any refurbishment or development
  • Access arrangements to residential units to take the form of separate arrangements to the front, rear or side of the building as appropriate
  • Recommend higher level of sound insulation than Building Regs to ensure comfortable noise levels for all occupants
  • Amenity space can be difficult and possibly unable to be provided, alternative arrangements and design should be considered, including, fenestration, French windows, balconies, including Juliette, and winter gardens

6.1       Change of use in a conservation area

North Somerset Council place greater demands of a change of use from A Class use to residential within conservation areas.

Paragraphs 193 to 202 of the NPPF detail the need to consider potential impacts on the significance of a designated heritage asset such as a conservation area or listed building.

Key principle 6 – development within a conservation area should pay special attention to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of that area. This includes the Great Weston conservation area which covers much of Weston-super-Mare town centre

In developing proposals for Weston-super-Mare town centre, applicants and their agents should consult the Great Weston conservation area town centre appraisal and management guide to inform their understanding of the area in which they are developing and to identify areas for improvement directly related to the development site. This may include repairs to stonework, removal of advertising clutter, reinstatement of historic features or reversal of insensitive additions or alterations. This may also include restoration of an original Victorian shopfront where it has been lost and the council will make full use of pre-occupation planning conditions to secure improvements to development which otherwise would be unacceptable, and to ensure the residential use cannot be occupied until the wider conservation area improvements have been satisfactorily completed.

 Figure 10: Shop Conversion to residential ( the old post office)

figure 10

Wider conservation area improvements related to the development can help to improve the character and appearance of the conservation area and may be considered necessary to help mitigate the harm that would be caused by the conversion to residential use. If carried out to an appropriately high standard, such works could provide a public benefit.

Maintaining the architectural integrity of a property is of the utmost importance in cases of change of use. Archival evidence and planning history should be consulted to inform future designs.