4.24 Shopping provision within Eden is centred on Penrith, which serves as an important retail centre for a widely dispersed population. It has a history as a small but successful market town serving a large and captive rural hinterland. Smaller centres within this hinterland at Appleby, Shap, Alston, and Kirkby Stephen have a strong tradition in serving their local populations, whilst many of the villages within the District have a village shop and/or post office.
4.25 Whilst in the past these centres have been able to rely on relatively captive markets to secure their economic well-being, increases in personal mobility and new trends in retailing mean this is no longer the case. Neighbouring retail centres at Carlisle and Kendal have undergone considerable environmental and commercial improvement over recent years, and the establishment of large regional centres such as the Metro Centre at Gateshead provide a further draw on traditionally local trade.
4.26 To some extent recent developments in Penrith have countered these trends, with the redevelopment of the Devonshire Arcade and Angel Square, traffic calming, and environmental improvements, all increasing the attractiveness of the town centre. Larger developments such as B & Q and Safeways have enhanced the range of goods and type of retailing available in the town. There is a need however, to build on these developments to ensure Penrith's retailing position is maintained.
4.27 Within the rural area, the smaller centres need to continue to develop their services and enhance their local environments if they are to maintain their position and capitalise on the growing tourist industry in the District. On a smaller scale, many villages have suffered from the loss of village shops and post offices, whilst others remain vulnerable.
4.28 National planning policy emphasises the need to support existing town centres and their continued development and diversification, in order that they remain important social, cultural, and economic centres as well as continuing to provide major retail services. Guidance also identifies the need to plan for reduced travel, by focusing development within or adjacent to established centres. The Local Plan strategy pursues this guidance by supporting appropriate development of existing centres and the reuse of established floorspace. The support of the District's principal centres, and of the retail provision within smaller settlements, contributes to minimising travel needs by providing shopping opportunities close to peoples homes.
4.29 This need to balance out of centre development with concern for existing town centres is reflected in the Structure Plan, which indicates that new and redeveloped shopping floorspace should be supported in major centres including Penrith, where it secures the long term viability and vitality of the centre. It also allows for large stores and warehouses to be permitted where conditions relating to impact on the environment and vitality of town centres can be met.
4.30 Having regard to the foregoing issues, and to the general plan principles set out at the beginning of this document, a number of objectives have been identified for that part of the Local Plan dealing with retail development. These are set out below while the following paragraphs detail the associated policies and supporting text.
Objective 32 to facilitate the provision of a wide range of well-located shopping accessible by a choice of means of transport.
Objective 33 to support the maintenance and enhancement of established shopping centres and village shops to secure their continued vitality and viability.
Objective 34 to encourage the appropriate use of under used and unused upper floorspace in order to improve the appearance and vitality of established shopping areas.