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Bromley Town Centre: Making the Case for Mixed-use

Regardless of vision or objectives, ultimately the success of a scheme depends on it gaining planning approval. Our work with a developer on a Bromley High Street mixed-use project demonstrates how we help clients with this critical, practical aspect of planning and development.

The Brief

Our developer client intended to purchase an existing office site on Bromley High Street. They were commissioning architects Goldstein Heather to design a new mixed-use development comprising offices and residential dwellings.

Our task was to assess the site to support the client in developing a proposal that would gain the London Borough of Bromley’s planning approval.

The Issue

The site was in an area of Bromley town centre that the local council had identified as a Business Improvement Area (BIA).

A BIA aims to improve the supply of high-quality office floorspace and to protect against the loss of office floorspace in a designated area

For developers, this presents potential constraints alongside opportunities.

Post-pandemic, the original BIA concept of retaining and increasing town centre office accommodation appears outdated.

Local councils want to regenerate and boost business in their town centres, but, in an age of increasingly flexible working, these concentrations of office buildings are no longer guaranteed to attract enterprises.

This presented our client with a problem. They understood Bromley wanted to keep as much office space as possible and improve it. But they also knew that the traditional idea of the office had limited potential for supporting future regeneration.

Another factor was the Council's emphasis on conservation more than progression. It was clear from similar applications within the town centre and high street that there was general opposition to tall buildings.

Our Answer

The developer was looking to provide improved office accommodation on an existing site and to introduce residential space above it. This required the development of a mixed-use site.

A mixed-use site would fulfil the local borough's requirement for improved office space while attracting people back into the town centre by combining it with residential accommodation. But did introduce residential accommodation into a BIA.

Therefore, to ensure the success of the developer's proposal, we would need to work closely with the council planners.

Appraisal and Strategy

At this stage, we led with a detailed planning appraisal of the site, researching all the potential issues surrounding it.

This gave us a clear picture of the opportunities and risks.

We explored various factors, such as the local planning context, the townscape and the potential impact of the proposed development on residential design standards.

Our central proposition was that mixed-use would improve existing office provision AND offer residential accommodation where there hadn’t been any. It would therefore support town centre regeneration on two fronts. This, however, required the construction of a much taller building on the proposed site.

A major aspect of our strategy was getting the support of the Greater London Authority (GLA). The authority had identified Bromley as an Opportunity Area in The London Plan. Our proposal aligned with this.

The fact that GLA said there were no strategic issues with the proposal helped to bring Bromley council on board.

This was a slow process, but eventually, we won planning approval.

Making the Case

Once we submitted the application, it became a challenging process, but we were tenacious.

We developed the scheme as a team, alongside the client. This gave us the confidence to put our best case for what we regarded as an outstanding proposal.

We also met with the Design Review Panel (DRP). They commended the scheme and how it carefully considered local, functional architecture.

In the application, we went deep into the detail, demonstrating how the proposal for the site closely fitted in with the town centre.

We included all the issues we understood the planning panel would be concerned with.

We submitted the scheme in November 2020 and secured the planning committee’s resolution to grant permission in May 2021. It got through to the decision notice, which was a significant achievement.

We’re confident that the eventual scheme will offer clear benefits to the area.

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