What we're trying to achieve

[3.17.01] We aim to secure thriving town and local centres where the viability and vitality of town/local centres are maintained, recognising these are at the heart of the communities which they serve.

Policy 17: Retailing and town centres

We seek to support and maintain the viability and vitality of town/local centres recognising these are at the heart of the communities which they serve.

Ambleside, Bowness, Keswick, Windermere

In the Primary Shopping Areas of Ambleside, Bowness, Keswick, and Windermere we will support commercial, business and service uses where proposals maintain and enhance the vitality of these centres.

Outside the Primary Shopping Areas a sequential test for the location of development will be applied. Proposals for edge of centre and out of centre locations will only be supported where evidence demonstrates that proposals would not harm the vitality or viability of these shopping areas.

Other Rural Service Centres and Villages

In other Rural Service Centres and Villages (see Policy 02) we will support small scale commercial, business and service provision. The location of this should be well related to any existing retail developments or other community services.

Other locations

In all other locations small scale local shops, pubs and drinking establishments, cafes and restaurants will be permitted where they do not introduce inappropriate levels of use to the location, and:

  • have a demonstrable essential need for a rural location that cannot be accommodated elsewhere; or
  • enable:
    • growth and expansion of an existing business, including as a component part of existing visitor attraction; or
    • diversification of an agricultural or land-based rural business (see Policy 19); or
    • retention of accessible local services.


An impact assessment will be required for all proposals containing commercial, business and service uses that create over 1,250 square metres (net) floorspace outside Primary Shopping Areas. The impact assessment requires a quantitative and qualitative assessment of existing floorspace and requirement for additional floorspace.

Implementation guidance

[3.17.06] Ambleside, Bowness, Keswick, and Windermere are the main town centres in the Lake District and Primary Shopping Areas are defined for these centres – see Policies Map. Outside these areas the sequential test will be applied in accordance with national guidance.

[3.17.07] An essential need for a rural location will be determined on a case by case basis, using the evidence submitted in support of the application. Examples of an essential need for a rural location may include a village shop, or a public house that helps to support a local community. Policy 23 provides support for the provision of community facilities and services that serve the needs of the community, which may include, for example, a village shop or public house.

Current situation

[3.17.02] For the size of the local resident population, retail centres in the Lake District perform well, there are many national retailers of both comparison and convenience goods, a diversity of uses including shops, restaurants, cafes, public houses, hotels, guest houses, offices, and visitor attractions (leisure uses). Whilst the visitor economy has a significant positive effect on the number and choice of retail uses, and helps to support local shops and facilities, some residents consider that the availability of some local services such as pharmacies, post offices and convenience stores are lost due to competing demand to satisfy the visitor economy. Occupancy of units remains high, supporting vibrant town centres.

[3.17.03] Retailing and town centre uses are focused into the settlements of Keswick, Ambleside, and Windermere and Bowness, but settlements such as Coniston, Grasmere, Hawkshead, and Staveley do provide an important but more localised range of retail and town centre uses. A number of larger settlements outside the Lake District provide a greater retail function helping to support communities within the Lake District, including online ordering and home delivery but results in 'leakage' of expenditure.

[3.17.04] The Glebe in Bowness Bay provides an important retail offer aimed primarily at visitors, it helps to support the vibrancy of this area, and is allocated as a strategic regeneration site. Within this allocation some areas of the site are identified for retail and leisure uses to support the regeneration of this area.

[3.17.05] The majority of town centre uses created over the past five years has been for restaurant and café use, sometimes at the expense of shops but the high street continues to evolve as a result of a number of factors. Changes to the Use Class Order provide greater flexibility for the interchange of commercial, business and service uses without the need for planning permission, in an effort to maintain the vibrancy of town/local centres against the changing demands for retail space.