BUSINESS | Commercial Premises


6.1.1    The town centre of Saffron Walden provides a range of services to an extensive rural catchment area. The town provides vital facilities for the Uttlesford District such as schools, health services and nearly all the local area’s food shopping needs.


6.1.2    Having assessed office space provision in Saffron Walden, the eLP states that (Paragraph 5.25) “There is an acute lack of modern office accommodation to meet the needs of Saffron Walden. Potential sites in and around the town are limited and rental values may mean development is not viable”.


6.1.3    The main industrial area of Shire Hill is just one mile from the town centre and therefore within walking distance of all of the housing areas.  Other smaller industrial areas are also within walking distance of the housing. On the east side of the town is Ridgeon’s, a builders’ merchant, and the south of the town has a new development which will host several big-box retailers. Regarding industrial space, the eLP notes in Paragraph 5.25 “There is a current surplus of industrial and particularly warehouse units in Saffron Walden, partly as a result of the recession and partly because of the difficulty of access to the M11.”


6.1.4    A fine example of a vibrant market town, Saffron Walden town centre hosts over 200 independent shops, restaurants and cafés, together with many well-known national retailers, cafés and restaurants. The market on Tuesdays and Saturdays draws locals and visitors to the town. The town has three mid-sized supermarkets (Tesco, Waitrose and Aldi) and several smaller convenience size stores.

6.1.5    The District Council commissioned a retail study by Savills as background evidence for the Local Plan. The study, updated in May 2018, forecasts the following needs to have arisen by 2026:

  • an additional mid-sized convenience store; and
  • an additional 5,370m2 retail space for comparison shopping (non-food).

These numbers are additional to the recently developed out of town retail space at Knight retail park. The retail study update assumes that the existing towns and villages will accommodate all of the retail requirements of the garden villages and that the garden villages do not have their own retail provision. This may change, and indeed, for the garden villages to be sustainable it will need to. It is not clear therefore that there is a need in Saffron Walden for additional convenience retail space and no sites are identified in the eLP.

6.1.6    The Uttlesford Retail Study Update notes that the centre of Saffron Walden, which accommodates much of the existing comparison floorspace in the district, is characterised by old, historic fabric, many listed buildings and embraced by Conservation Areas. It further notes that the ability of such units to increase their efficiency is considered to be very limited. Therefore, opportunities to create modern retail space within the town centre should be seized.


6.1.7    The town has many old buildings and two public gardens that are tourist attractions, as well as Saffron Hall concert hall, Saffron Screen, Saffron Walden Museum, and the Fry Gallery.  Audley End House which is maintained by English Heritage, and Audley End Mini railway, are nationally significant visitor attractions and are within two miles of the town centre. The One Minet skate park attracts people from a very wide area and regularly hosts competitions.

6.1.8    Ongoing projects by the Tourist Information Office and business groups encourage tourists to visit the town. The 200,000 visitors per year to Audley End House, and the many hundreds of thousands of annual visitors to Cambridge have been identified as potential additional consumers for Saffron Walden’s retail and hospitality businesses. Spending by additional tourists may help to offset the increasing appeal of online shopping which has been identified as a general threat to bricks and mortar retailers everywhere.

6.1.9    A Premier Inn hotel has been granted planning permission.


6.2.1    The economic objective of the SWNP is for Saffron Walden to be economically active and as self-sustaining as possible. It must be desirable for residents and tourists to visit, shop and work in, without inappropriate development detracting from the historic and commercial appeal of the town.

6.2.2    In order to achieve this objective, and assessing current provision and use of commercial spaces, the SWNP identifies the following priorities:

  • To promote the development of a widespread range of commercial use classes, including retail premises and hot food dining-in establishments in the town centre that enhance the appeal of the town to residents and visitors;
  • To support initiatives that increase footfall in the town, including tourism that generates income;
  • To encourage development of facilities for new start-up businesses; and
  • To support proposals that enhance the attractiveness and competitiveness of commercial units, both in use and vacant, for existing and new businesses.


6.2.3    In April 2019, the Gambling Commission launched the new National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms [1]. The future prevention plan foresees a range of universal measures which will protect the whole population, including placing “regulatory requirements/restrictions on product, place and provider”. The Gambling Commission Report “Gambling participation in 2018: behaviour, awareness and attitudes” of 2018 found that 79% of respondents “were of the view there are too many opportunities to gamble nowadays” and 71% considered gambling is dangerous for family life”. Saffron Walden has two gambling operators, and the SWNP is not supportive of planning permission being granted for additional operators.

6.2.4    Hot food takeaway premises sit in a planning category which would include all kinds of food once permission is granted. In assessing planning applications for additional hot food takeaways, consideration will be given to the likely impact on local amenity and public health.




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Neighbourhood Plan Objectives

Objective 1

Saffron Walden will be an economically active and self-sustaining town, offering equal opportunities to all.

Objective 2

Saffron Walden’s residents will be able to live as healthily as possible.

Objective 3

Saffron Walden will be an environmentally sustainable town.

Objective 4

Saffron Walden’s heritage assets, high quality landscape and conservation areas will be protected or enhanced.

Objective 5

Saffron Walden will retain its market-town feel and community spirit.