Meeting the Council’s Vision

Kingston’s Local Plan (2012) identifies several challenges relating to the historic Town Centre, noting that measures and policies are required to maintain the Town Centre’s vibrancy and attractiveness to residents and visitors alike. A series of measures and objectives relating to the regeneration of the centre of Kingston have been outlined for the Plan period.  

The Council’s overall vision for Kingston Town Centre is to create:

“A thriving Metropolitan Town Centre serving the needs of its catchment and providing a sustainable and enhanced range of town centre services including retail, leisure, employment, education and community facilities, as well as new homes and improved job opportunities, in a high quality environment, that is safe, clean, and easily accessible to all.

“High quality new development will maximise the potential of vacant, outmoded and underused sites…. Kingston’s distinctive character, especially its historic environment and riverside, will be safeguarded and enhanced. A range of improvements to transport, access, public spaces and the natural environment will enhance its attractiveness for residents, businesses, workers, shoppers, students and visitors, in the daytime and in the evenings.”

The Plan also set a target of delivering 5,625 new homes to meet burgeoning demand, with Kingston Town Centre earmarked for 1,000 homes due to its sustainable location and proximity to public transport links. This target is likely to increase once the emerging New London Plan is adopted, which sets a target of 9,640 new homes in the Borough.

Given that adopted and emerging policy strongly encourages making best use of brownfield sites and optimising sites in town centre locations for residential purposes, Sports Direct’s plans for Market Place will make a valuable contribution to meeting housing need in the Borough in a sustainable location.

Sports Direct’s proposals will help the Council to fulfil its vision for Kingston Town Centre by:

  • Delivering 3,425 m² of new and upgraded high-quality retail space. This will grow the Town Centre’s retail offer and help draw more daytime visitors to Kingston;  
  • Providing much needed new homes on a vacant, unused site. This will increase local housing choice and assist residents to get a foot on the housing ladder while reducing pressure to build homes in less sustainable locations;
  • Bringing new residents to the Town Centre which will increase the activity and vibrancy of the area whilst also contributing to the Town Centre’s non-retail offer, such as bars and restaurants;
  • Delivering improvements to access and public spaces in the Town Centre, including Kings Passage, a key link between the Thames and Market Place, which will receive new lighting and paving.

Improving our town centres

The debate around how to improve the UK’s town centres has been ongoing for a number of years, triggered by the country’s change in shopping habits toward more online retail and compounded by the 2008 recession which damaged many high street retailers.

Current thinking is that our town centres now need to adapt to survive, which means diversifying what town centres are used for to bring them back to life. Many councils, including Kingston, are now looking to deliver new homes in town centres to help retain their vibrancy and increase footfall for businesses.

This concept was the topic of a recent BBC Panorama documentary, How to Save the High Street, in which the benefits that new housing can bring for ailing town centres was explored. You can watch the show by clicking here.

The increased provision of retail floorspace alongside the proposed public realm improvements combined with a residential use at the site is considered to make the best use of an existing vacant and redundant building within Kingston Town Centre.

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