In the local centre, as allocated in the Arlesey Cross Masterplan, there will be a presumption in favour of small retail unit proposals. There is a presumption against changes of use away from use classes A1 (shops), A2 (Financial and Professional Services), A3 (Restaurants and Cafes) and A4 (Drinking Establishments) in order that non-Class A uses do not dominate or detract from the core objective of providing retail outlets for the shopper. This relates to proposals that sit outside of permitted development rights.
Arlesey currently benefits from a range of shops spread throughout the parish and serving in the main the local community. Whilst there is no true ‘centre’ to the village because of its linear form, the natural focal point for many is the complex housing the Village Hall, Town Council offices, library and resource centre and recreational ground. There are however no retail businesses located here.
The engagement process revealed that 56% of local people shop in the parish at least once a week. 27% of residents felt that a more centrally located shopping area would make it easier to access businesses, whilst 17% suggested that shops and amenities should be spread throughout the parish. A key factor for 40% of respondents was the need for better parking (including more spaces, timed spaces) which would encourage them to shop more frequently in the town. There was a desire to see more independent retailers, particularly specialist food retailers, and a greater choice of eating places.
Engagement with local businesses revealed that they would not be averse to a new centre so long as it complemented the existing offer of the town. The larger threat for businesses was the loss of clientele to nearby larger towns. The Arlesey Cross Masterplan includes the following vision for the proposed centre:
“A 1.67 ha area comprised of a small supermarket, complementary small-scale retail units and a community building”
The number of dwellings in the Arlesey Cross development means that the current retail and business will struggle to cater for the needs of an increased population. There has already been a gradual reduction in the range of retail facilities in the village which affects the viability of the village centre and increases the dependency on the car. It particularly affects those with limited access to transport.