PPS 5: Retailing and Town Centres
Town Centres: Vitality and Viability of Town Centres
18. Vitality is a measure of how busy a centre is and viability is a measure of its capacity to attract ongoing investment for maintenance, importance and adaptation to changing needs. Although no single indicator can effectively measure the health of a town centre, the use of a series of then can provide a view of performance and offer a framework for assessing vitality and viability. Some or all of the indicators below can be used to carry out a 'health check' of the town centre and the Department will undertake such health checks, where feasible, as part of the preparation of development plans. These health checks also provide information which the Department will take into account in assessing the impact of out-of-centre developments:
- accessibility: the ease and convenience of means of travel, including the frequency, penetration and quality of public transport services, the quality, quantity, location and type of car parking, and the quality of provision for people with a mobility handicap, pedestrians and cyclists;
- customer views: surveys of customers' views;
- diversity of uses: amount and location of floor space for different uses and how this is changing;
- environment quality of the centre;
- pedestrian flow: the number and movement of people on the streets, in different locations, at different times of the day or evening and over a period of time;
- retailer profile: the existing composition, retailer demand and other potential changes;
- retailers' views: surveys of the views of existing town centre retailers;
- shop rents: pattern of movement in that part of the town centre with the highest rents; and
- vacancy rates: particularly the proportion of vacant street level floor space in primary shopping areas;
19. The carrying out of town centre health checks should assist the Department in identifying early signs of decline in the centre. The Department may, where appropriate, develop policies for the centre to address the problem of decline and provide a basis fro enhancement of the centre's potential as a location for other suitable town centre uses.
20. The Department recognises that town centre management can contribute to the vitality and viability of town centres by generating civic pride and giving confidence to investors and retailers. Whilst many factors affecting the quality of a town centre lie outside the planning system, town centre management initiatives may be developed by local authorities in partnership with the private sector and the local community.
21. The Department provides funding through programmes such as the Urban Development Grant in Belfast and Londonderry, Environmental Improvement, Pedestrianisation, Comprehensive Development, Making Belfast Work and the Londonderry Initiative for urban regeneration. The Department, jointly with the International Fund for Ireland (IFI) funds, also provides funding for town centre regeneration outside Belfast and Londonderry through the Urban Development Programme and the Community Property Development Scheme. These programmes all make a significant contribution to the regeneration of town centres and urban areas generally.