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Retail Strategy

“The retail offer of Herne Bay, also dominated by independents, should benefit from regeneration efforts identified in the Herne Bay Area Action Plan, which seeks to improve the retail offer and increase the amount of consumer spending retained in the town.” [Draft Local Plan 4.9]

The Herne Bay Area Action Plan (HBAAP) was written over a period of a couple of years, ending in 2009. In 2009 the Council appointed developers to develop the Central Development Area (the area that centres on William Street and Morrisons). The Council and the developers have failed to interest any major retail player in their plans in the years since then. We are nearly four years on and the Central Development Area plan is dead in the water. Despite this, the Council is still clinging to this plan as its only idea to regenerate Herne Bay. This means that our retail centre will continue to struggle whilst Canterbury’s is expanded and improved. Our fear is that this will mean that Herne Bay will become a dormitory town, surrounded by housing estates, with no town centre to speak of, and all the consumer spending will be bled out into Canterbury.

“… Where the growth of non-retail uses reduces the availability of choice for customers and creates ‘dead frontages’, there is a loss of vitality of the centre and attractiveness to customers. This is particularly marked in Herne Bay town centre, where strict application of the Primary Shopping Frontage policy will assist with consolidating the main shopping streets, and ensure there is an accessible central core of shopping for Comparison and choice and which supports the planned regeneration activities. The Herne Bay Area Action Plan includes specific development proposals for the town centre, including significant retail provision.” [Draft Local Plan 4.17]

This means that, whatever happens to our town’s shops, in some areas owners will not be able to convert a shop into a restaurant or bar. This seems unnecessarily restrictive when the Council is doing nothing to enhance the town’s retail offer.

Local shops such as:

Herne Bay Road/ St Johns Road, Swalecliffe;
Sea Street, Herne Bay;
Canterbury Road, Herne Bay;
Reculver Road, Beltinge;

will be protected from “damaging development elsewhere”. [Draft Local Plan 4.25]

We think that this has huge implications. The Central Development Area dream has already failed. The Council will oppose the Sainsbury at Altira. We are not going to be allowed to have more “comparison shopping”. At the same time, the town’s population will increase by thousands. We cannot picture the town’s much bigger population all driving into town to shop at Morrison’s or the Co-op. the Local Plan will drive even more Herne Bay people to spend their money outside the town.  

“… Herne Bay has an under-performing town centre, due to the limited range of comparison goods retailing and the strength of Canterbury. Once completed, significant comparison retail in the Central Development Area, as well as other allocations in the Herne Bay Area Action Plan, will use and indeed exceed, any available capacity for additional floor space for the foreseeable future.” [Draft Local Plan 4.32]

This paragraph claims that, once the Central Development Area has been redeveloped, that will soak up the entire town’s demand for stuff like clothes, household goods and bigger purchases. There are two problems with this.

  • One, there’s no prospect of any large retailer wanting to take space in the Central Development Area.
  • Two, the town’s population is going to expand by an additional 37 to 47%.

Even if the Central Development Area did happen, we don’t see how it can handle Herne Bay’s shopping needs. The Council’s insistence on flogging this dead horse means that we won’t get any new retail space in the town centre at all. This will do nothing to regenerate our town and support our independent tradespeople.

“…For Herne Bay, the retail study identified very modest levels of capacity. Implementation of the foodstore envisaged in the Adopted Masterplan for the Central Development Area would use this remaining capacity, as well as those increases in capacity that result from increasing Herne Bay Town Centre’s market share for convenience good expenditure. […] Any out-of-town capacity would be removed by the provision of food retail floor space in the Central Development Area, since Herne Bay would become more self-sufficient in convenience goods terms. Regeneration activities identified in the Area Action Plan are key to ensure additional retail capacity is generated. The Council will resist any out of town development that would threaten implementation of the Area Action Plan and regeneration of the Herne Bay Town Centre.” [Draft Local Plan 4.34]

In this paragraph, the word “capacity” means “demand”. The Council says that all Herne Bay’s future food shopping needs for the new, massively expanded, population will be met by the supermarket planned in the Central Development Area. The trouble is, none of the major supermarket chains wants to open a store in that area. This means that we will not get a local supermarket to meet our food shopping needs.

“…Herne Bay will undergo significant changes over the life of the Local Plan. Regeneration schemes as set out in the Area Action Plan are attracting significant new investment through the implementation of Development Principles Supplementary Planning Documents for:

Central Development Area (Policy HB1);
Beach Street (Policy HB2);
Bus Depot (Policy HB3).”
[Draft Local Plan 4.50]

We know that nothing has happened on the Central Development Area for nearly four years. There is not so much as a whisper of possible investment for the Bus Depot site. Bill Murray has plans – mainly housing – for Beach Street. We think that the Council is being overoptimistic when it says that these areas “are attracting significant new investment.” If they really were, the Council would have wanted to tell us all about it.  

“As well as enhancing the retail and cultural offer, status and trading performance of Herne Bay, these will help to retain a higher proportion of residents’ expenditure within the town, much of which has been lost to nearby centres of Westwood Cross and Canterbury. There is no significant capacity beyond the floor space on these identified sites and it is imperative that regeneration of the town is not threatened by development of out-of-town floor space.” [Draft Local Plan 4.51]

The Council tells us regularly that 70p in every pound leaks out of Herne Bay to be spent elsewhere. Then in the paragraph above it says that all our demand for shops and shopping can be met by the sites already identified in the existing, dormant or failed, plans. We simply do not see how both these statements can be true.  

“Herne Bay is a traditional seaside resort in a desirable position with reasonable transport links, improving beaches and a nostalgia factor that draws people to the town in the summer season. However, during the rest of the year there is insufficient tourist income to maintain a basic level of tourist infrastructure. Planned investment in the sea front will improve the town’s tourism prospects. In addition to this, a major events programme has provided new reasons to visit in recent years and there are modest signs of a recovery in business.” [Draft Local Plan 6.45]

The Council recognises the problem that the town has little tourist trade in the winter but seems to think that we can overcome this by having a few new benches and some events. We don’t think that this provides us with a stable tourist income for October to May. The Local Plan needs to recognise that Herne Bay needs a proper strategy for tourism

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