This Study considered trends in the UK and Northern Irish retail and leisure economy to establish a baseline position of the likely supply and demand for different town centre uses over the Plan period to 2030. The tone for the Study was one of caution yet proactivity, with town centres throughout the UK experiencing unprecedented volatility whilst we adjust to rapidly evolving digital retail platforms and how these impact our bricks and mortar town centres, set against the complex backdrop of fluctuating global economic pressures.

Our Solutions

We established six live ‘roadshow consultation events’ visiting Town Teams and local politicians across diverse destinations, including Antrim, Randalstown and Ballyclare. Ahead of the roadshows, we undertook extensive household surveys and town centre health-checks to provide up-to-date empirical evidence to residents and Councillors on key matters concerning the future of their town centres. We then used the roadshow as a two-way conversation with stakeholders representing different community groups and industry to present our findings. Q&A sessions with these stakeholders was invaluable to help sense-check our findings and formulate our overall conclusions. The culmination of our work was to make a series of policy recommendations aimed at meeting the needs and expectations of the Borough’s residents, whilst protecting the vitality and viability of its existing centres. Key to this balance, is defining a retail hierarchy, and what the ambition should be for each centre. Our work concluded that there have been significant shifts since the time legacy plans were drawn up, and that the role and function of a number of centres needed re-considering.

The Outcome

Our final report has been very well-received, now forming part of the evidence base for the Council’s Local Development Plan. Nexus recently appeared as expert witnesses at the Independent Examination, helping the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC) with their understanding and interpretation of the key policies and strategies therein.

Sharon Mossman, Deputy Director of Planning, Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council says: ‘Nexus was employed by the Council to prepare its 2019 Retail and Leisure Study. The report was completed in early 2020, since then we have utilised Nexus for ad hoc advice on planning application matters, and provide advice at our Plan Examination. Their work has been thorough and timely at all stages, communications are quick and helpful. We would thoroughly recommend their services to other Councils.’