Town Centre Policies

Town Centre

Key messages:

Based on what local people have told us, we have the following aims for the town centre. The town centre should:

  • Retain a variety of retail businesses and a strong presence of independently-owned shops
  • Strengthen our leisure-based opportunities and be a vibrant social centre for the whole community.
  • Enhance its attractiveness and character for visitors and residents alike
  • Improve its accessibility, balancing the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and car users.


Town Centre Draft Policies:

Policy SFTC1

What does Policy SFTC1 set out to do?

To define the Town Centre and our priorities for development in that area.

This includes independent shops, enhanced leisure and tourism, the potential for commercial offices and flats above shops, and a welcoming and charming historic environment.


Our survey has told us what you value from our town centre. And some statistics reveal what could be made better.

– Development proposals within the town centre area (the area in blue) will be supported if they meet (or do not undermine) these following aspirations:

  • They maintain a strong and vibrant retail presence within the town centre area. They enable the continued presence of a varied range of small independent shops.
  • They ensure the continued operation of the street markets.
  • They enhance the leisure activities for both residents and tourists. These could include cultural, arts and community venues, additional overnight accommodation and food or drink establishments.
  • They provide opportunities for office-based employment, which complement and support the town centre’s vitality and viability.
  • They offer opportunities for housing on otherwise underused upper floors where these are shown to be no longer suitable for commercial use.
  •  They protect and enhance the town centre’s historic and architectural charm.
  •  They create a safe and pedestrian-friendly public spaces.
  • They provide sufficient public and private car parking for the town centre and the parking provision caters for forecast future needs.

Why is enhancing leisure important?

Whilst shops remain important other uses that bring people to town and generate town centre activity will also be encouraged.

The range of leisure services offered in Shaftesbury is limited and makes up only 13.9% of total outlets compared to the UK average of 23.9%.

Why do we need to maintain a vibrant town centre?

The findings of the ‘health check’ for Shaftesbury town centre paint a largely positive picture. On most measures Shaftesbury fares better than national averages and other towns in rural Dorset. For example, the shop vacancy rate is recorded as 3.9% compared with a national average of 11.2%.

Not all is rosy, though. The health check was based largely on 2016 data, and since then there have been more shop closures and some premises lay empty.

  • When people were asked what they most liked about Shaftesbury Town Centre, the two key features most frequently mentioned were “attractive environment/nice place” (29.4%) and “good range of independent shops” (17.1%).

Why is tourism important?

  • Tourism is important to Shaftesbury’s economy. Each year, our town receives 472,000 day visitors and 19,000 people stay overnight. Visitors spend £18.3 million locally each year and that supports 370 local jobs.

Quick Read

What does this policy mean and why is it important?

The term ‘town centre’ means different things to different people. This is a planning document and we need to make sure we are clear about the precise area that we are referring to. It also sets the scene in terms of what is important to consider when planning decisions are made.

Policy SFTC2

What does Policy SFTC2 set out to do?

To define the primary shopping area and main frontages, and the different uses/changes allowed that should support the vitality of the town centre.

Whilst shops remain important, other uses that bring people to, and generate activity in, the town centre will also be encouraged.


POLICY SFTC2 – For the main shopping frontages within the primary shopping area (as shown on the map), the use of ground floor or street level units should fall within one or more of the following use classes:

  • Retail (A1).
  •  Financial and professional services (A2) – provided that A2 uses do not become the predominant use in that stretch of shop frontage.
  • Restaurants and cafes (A3), pubs and wine bars (A4) or hot food takeaways (A5).
  •  Assembly and leisure use (D2 – e.g. cinemas and sports halls), or non-residential institutions (D1 – e.g. day nurseries, libraries, art galleries, training centres).

Quick Read

What does this policy mean and why is it important?

If all of the shops in the High Street became offices or residential properties, the town centre would soon feel very different. Local jobs and our town’s economy could be affected. We don’t feel that a row of offices should be allowed to replace retail shops in the High Street, for example. We think it is important to identify areas where we don’t think the current use of buildings should be greatly changed, from commercial use to residential use for example. There is a nationally recognised planning code for each type of business – A1, D2 etc. 


Policy SFTC3

What does Policy SFTC3 set out to do?

To preserve and enhance the character and design of our historic town centre through the application of character and design guidance to any proposed future development or redevelopment.

An important emphasis is that any new building will be of very high quality, that enhances the town centre, both in its architecture and materials used. This does not mean that it must reference the surrounding historic architecture or local building materials, but that in its design and realisation, it is a development of which the town can be proud.


POLICY SFTC3 – Any street lighting, street signs, litterbins or benches should be consistent with the guidance set out in the Shaftesbury Design Guidelines.

Shopfronts need to retain entrances and openings so people can access them from the street and so they appear connected with and provide interest to the street.

The loss of historic shopfronts will be resisted. They should be maintained and enhanced through adopting the following principles:

  •  Shop front signage should preserve and enhance the historic character of the shopfront – painted fascias and swing signs will normally be preferred; plastic signs are discouraged
  •  The introduction of solid or perforated external security shutters that would have a detrimental impact will be resisted
  •  Any alterations or replacements of windows and doors should favour painted wood as the primary material. They should retain the traditional design and glazing, where possible, although alternative glazing options to single-glazed units may be considered due to the greater energy efficiency (and better visibility for internal displays).

The merging of adjoining shops or units together may be favourably considered provided that the external integrity and historic nature of the front of the building(s) is preserved. The design should allow for joined units to be separated back into individual units to provide flexibility for future uses.

The redevelopment of late 20th and early 21st century buildings that detract from the historic character of the town centre will be encouraged where this would enhance the historic character of the area.

Quick Read

What does this policy mean and why is it important?

Shaftesbury is unique. If our town centre streets are altered without consideration for their heritage, they will be ruined, perhaps forever.


Policy STFC4

What does Policy SFTC4 set out to do?

To ensure that planning decisions pay full regard to congestion and the need for parking in the town centre, as the provision of sufficient and affordable parking is critical to the centre’s continuing success.

National planning guidance recognises the need to improve the quality of parking in town centres and, where it is necessary to ensure the vitality of town centres, the quantity too. With the potential development of the Cattle Market, this issue is even more important to the town.


POLICY SFTC4 – Proposals that increase the level of parking provision should be strongly supported.

Developer contributions may be required to facilitate the provision of additional off-street parking spaces and improvements to its management.

Proposals that reduce the number of off-street parking spaces to serve the town centre will be resisted.

Proposals for installation of electric/ultra-low emission vehicle charging points should be supported, provided there is demonstrable demand. Their installation should not significantly affect parking available for other vehicles.

Planning policies that seek to increase parking provision are unlikely to be sufficient on their own. Practical measures are needed to manage demand and congestion. The recent Shaftesbury Parking Study proposes options including using signposting, altering the length of stay and better enforcement.

A project is proposed in Appendix A to review these options and, in particular, work with Dorset Council on a number of potential projects to consider in terms of parking provision, signage, length of stay and wider transport considerations.

Community and Leisure Policy 3 also sets out to achieve safe walking and cycling routes that are well connected with the town centre and other key areas.

Quick Read

What does this policy mean and why is it important?

The Neighbourhood Plan commissioned the Shaftesbury Parking Study. Data collection and surveys were undertaken in late 2018 for the four car parks serving the town centre – Bell Street, Angel Lane, Tesco and Barton Hill. They are shown on the town centre map. Observations were also undertaken of on-street parking.

In total, the four car parks have 514 spaces and there are 283 on-street parking spaces. The main conclusions of the study are:

– Car parking is in high demand in Shaftesbury.

– Car parks are heavily used.

– Demand has increased since the previous survey in 2005.



For Maps and more information please click here to view the full Neighbourhood plan.