Croydon Council’s move to block a food store under Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou’s easy brand comes at a time when, on the surface at least, it would seem that in the world of development, almost anything goes. 

The recent attempt by the easy brand to open a food retail store at Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou’s Metlife building opposite East Croydon Station throws up an interesting application of planning rules at a time when superficially it would seem that in the world of development, almost anything goes. 

Although the proposal for the easyFoodstore site opposite East Croydon Station might have seemed a good idea, and could well succeed elsewhere, the key to development is found in the Government’s March 2012 National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the fundamental need to achieve sustainable development. 

What is the NPPF and why does it affect retail?

Where up to date development plans exist, then those plans will be assumed to have achieved economic, social and environmental dimensions that make up sustainable development.  In the present instance, the site opposite East Croydon Station is not in the Addiscombe District Centre, which is described as being recognised as a place for retail vitality and potential.  Clearly Croydon Council is not prepared to allow retail development elsewhere which would be detrimental to nearby District Centres where the central shopping area is located.

It follows that for planning authorities to be able to dictate to retailers where enterprises are to be developed, then the planning authority must have an up to date local plan which will have gone through the sustainability exercise required by the NPPF. If there are plans which predate the NPPF the policies dealing with sustainability may mean that planning authorities may still be able to control where major retail development can be allowed to proceed. 

Are there still problems?

Regardless of the Government warning planning authorities that they should ensure their local plans are up to date and in line with the policies introduced by the NPPF, a recently published Government study showed that as at May 30, 2014, only 59% of all councils have in place core strategies that have been found to be sound and only 57% have been adopted.  Although it is true that some 259 (77%) planning authorities have submitted their core strategy documents to the Government for approval and may have been held up due to issues unrelated to retail development, a particular issue being the well-rehearsed need to increase the provision for housing land supply.  Consequently, these statistics will impact on the number of retail zones.

The easyFoodstore case in Croydon is unlikely to be the last of its kind in retail.

  • Roger Curtis is a partner in the commercial property and planning team at Wedlake Bell