8 Retail

8.1 The importance of the retail sector to the regeneration of the Black Country should not be underestimated. There is a very substantial leakage of retail expenditure from the Black Country. This is damaging in terms of economic performance, image and confidence. It is also means that significant development potential associated with that expenditure is being lost from the Black Country, undermining the regeneration of centres as a whole and the creation of jobs in other sectors.

Strategic Town Centre Status

8.2 Brierley Hill has been identified as a strategic town centre which means it will provide the main focus for higher level retail, commercial and services floorspace in the borough of Dudley. RSS Phase 2 (Preferred Option December 2007) Policies PA11 to PA13c together with UR2 & UR3 address the key strategic issues affecting town and city centres and the location of development. As one of the ten centres within the major urban area, Brierley Hill has a key role to play in achieving urban renaissance in the Black Country.

8.3 Brierley Hill  is included in the network of town and city centres (Policy PA11, RSS). The town and city centres included within the strategic network vary significantly in terms of their size and character. This is reflected in the division of the network into four tiers, Brierley Hill is identified in Tier 2. These tiers reflect the current size of the centres, as measured by their comparison retail turnover.

8.4 WM RSS Phase Two Revision - Draft recognises that individual centres will need to develop and change in line with their particular needs, and also to respond to changes in the distribution of population within the region. This is reflected in the indicative requirements for additional comparison retail and offices set out in PA12A and PA13A.


8.5 Brierley Hill is situated at the heart of Dudley Borough, in the West Midlands and includes the Merry Hill Shopping Centre. The shopping centre opened in 1985 and is currently owned by The Westfield Group. Merry Hill is the largest retail centre within the Black Country, comprising 1.5 million sq ft retail floorspace and over 200 retail units - supporting an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 jobs.The centre attracts 21 million visitors every year and in total the area covers approximately 1.5 million sq. ft (139,355 sq. m). With an estimated comparison retail turnover of £583 million, the CACI Retail Footprint 2005 ranks Merry Hill 2nd in the West Midlands and 35th in the UK in terms of retail footprint. According to figures Merry Hill is some 50% larger than Wolverhampton and over twice as large as Walsall. Merry Hill is an established shopping facility with a strong catchment that reflects its sub-regional and regional significance.

Map 6 Map of Merry Hill Shopping Centre (Popup full image) 

Map 6 Map of Merry Hill Shopping Centre

Merry Hill Shopping Centre was developed in a number of stages. They can be summarised as follows:

1980 The Round Oak Steelworks, which operated on the Merry Hill Site, closed
1981 The Merry Hill area was declared an Enterprise Zone
1984 The land occupied by the former Round Oak Steelworks was incorporated into the Enterprise Zone

Also in this year the redevelopment of the Waterfront area begins

1985 Phase 1 Merry Hill retail warehousing opened (Approximately 163,000 sq ft/ 15,143 sq m)

Phase 2 Merry Hill shopping mall opened (Approximately 203,000 sq ft/ 18,859 sq m)

1986 Phase 3 Merry Hill retail warehousing opened (Approximately 214,000 sq ft/ 19,881 sq m)
1989 Phase 4 Merry Hill shopping mall opened (Approximately 137,000 sq ft/ 12,728 sq m)
1989 Phase 5 Merry Hill shopping mall opened (Approximately 818,000 sq ft/75,995 sq m)
1995 Waterfront Complete
1996 Phase 4 shopping mall redeveloped
1997 Canal development started between Merry Hill and Brierley Hill High Street
1998 A4036 traffic improvements completed
2002 Pedestrian link between Merry Hill, the Dudley Canal and the Waterfront improved with the opening of Jubilee Walk

Retail Technical Documents supporting Brierley Hill becoming a Strategic Town Centre.

8.6 There is overwhelming survey and market evidence which demonstrates that Brierley Hill already performs a strategic role in the Black Country network of centres as a convenience / comparison and services shopping centre; and a sub-regional focus for employment and leisure.

8.7 The study sets out the context and background to the need for new floorspace in the sub-region and sets out assumptions about expenditure. Chapter 11 makes the case for Brierley Hill designation as a strategic centre and draws out the key issues and conclusions arising from the analysis of Brierley Hill. In retail terms the Merry Hill Centre ranked 24th in the UK and was the highest ranking Black Country centre.  GVA Grimley consider there is a clearly defined need for further growth of Brierley Hill as a strategic retail, leisure and employment centre if the Black Country is to achieve the level of economic growth assumed. 

8.8 Maintaining and enhancing the strategic function of Brierley Hill is line with the 'four centres strategy', by providing a balanced network of higher order strategic centres which are well placed to serve the needs of all Black Country residents.  and the continued growth of Birmingham and improvements in the other Black Country strategic centres will over time create a less balanced network, and necessitate Dudley residents travelling further a field for their strategic retail, leisure and employment needs.

8.9 Sets out the current role of Brierley Hill and assesses the overall implications for the Black Country of its expansion. Merry Hill has 14.2% of total Black Country catchment for comparison goods expenditure  and that overall 31.1% of all such spend leaked out of the Black Country. The study examines what would happen if the extra retail growth was not catered for by an expansion  of Merry Hill what would happen to this retail growth? Failure to maintain and enhance the established retail function of Brierley Hill would most likely result in a significant proportion of the spend leaking out of the Black Country to Birmingham.

8.10 The aim of the study is to assess the implications on shopping patterns within the Black Country Region if Merry Hill/Brierley Hill does not expand in the future and that no further retail development can be accommodated in Dudley. If the expenditure identified for Merry Hill/Brierley Hill and Dudley was lost from the catchment, it is evident that by 2021 the market share for all centres within the Black Country would fall from 48% in 2005 to 42%. Whilst this at face value may not look significant, given the amount  of expenditure available within the catchment  this fall in market share would amount to the loss of £517m by 2021. This equates to a loss of more than 118,000 shoppers within the Black Country which if we assume they undertake one non-food shopping trip per week would account to the loss of more than 6.1 million shoppers annually by 2021 within the Black Country sub-region.

8.11 Whilst this is anticipated to be the worst case scenario, it is evident that even if the expenditure which should have been captured by Merry Hill/Brierley Hill and Dudley is then redistributed equally to all centres within and outside the catchment that the leakage to competing centres would still represent  an additional loss of £329m per annum will be lost from the Black Country economy by 2021. Such levels of leakage have significant implications not only for future investments within the Black Country region but also the ability for the sub-region to develop more sustainable patterns of travel and avoid unnecessary journeys to competing centres elsewhere beyond the sub-region.

8.12 The purpose of the study is to understand in detail how major regional shopping malls are being dealt with at the relevant local and regional level. The research has been undertaken primarily to understand whether or not the case being pursued in the Black Country to identify Merry Hill/Brierley Hill as an established town centre is unique and whether or not the circumstances against which this strategy has been developed are also unique or could easily be applied to other major regional shopping malls throughout the UK. 

8.13 In summary, the position being advanced for Brierley Hill is not unique. The out of town shopping centres which offer the best opportunity to integrate with the existing urban area, are accessible to all and offer significant regeneration benefits would appear to be in the strongest position in terms of justifying their status as established centres. It is significant to note that unlike Brent Cross, the future development at Merry Hill/Brierley Hill will result in a downgrade of an existing strategic centre (Dudley). Therefore, whilst the local strategy identified for Brierley Hill is not considered to be unique, it is evident that the spatial planning strategy of downgrading an existing centre is.

8.14 Study looks at the implications should Brierley Hill not be designated and states that growth at Brierley Hill will be positive for the Black Country investment market. The Merry Hill centre is an important economic driver and retail facility for the Black Country as a whole. A larger and strengthened Merry hill centre which improves the general economy of the Black Country is more likely to improve the retailing facilities of Dudley and investor confidence in the town as a centre. The reason for this is that it is clear there is considerable leakage of expenditure away from the Black Country. By recapturing this expenditure, the individual towns which serve the Black Country population can tap into this greater retained expenditure potential  to increase economic expansion.

8.15 The study sets out that Dudley cannot accommodate retail growth to deliver strategic centre status. This technical study examines options and alternatives to the Brierley Hill option and concludes that there is no alternative option. The study demonstrates that the wider Brierley Hill area is best placed to perform the role of the strategic centres in the Borough and that this approach conforms with the objectives of the RSS and the underpinning objectives for town centres set out in PPS6. The study similarly demonstrates how the Brierley Hill would function and compliment the existing network of centres.

Further Comparison Retail Conditions

8.16 Retail expansion is a key ingredient needed to achieve the necessary investment to transform Brierley Hill into an integrated town centre.The first phase revision of the Regional Spatial Strategy allows the AAP to plan to deliver the 51,000m comparison retail growth between 2004 and 2021 without phasing constraints. Policy PA11A: Brierley Hill/Merry Hill and Dudley in the RSS clearly states that as a newly designated strategic town centre further comparison retail floorspace is bought into operation in Brierley Hill Town Centre until three conditions are met. Those conditions and the criteria for measuring compliance with them are:

  • Adoption of the Brierley Hill Area Action Plan. This criteria will be satisfied when Dudley MBC approve the adoption of the AAP which is currently scheduled for October 2009;

  • Implementation of improvements to public transport, including completion of initiatives of equivalent quality and attractiveness to the proposed Metro extension from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill, and improvements to bus services connecting the centre with other locations in the Black Country and beyond, and other measures to improve accessibility to and circulation within the centre by non-car modes;

  • Introduction of a car parking management regime including the use of parking charges compatible with those in the region's network of major centres. Planning permission was granted in January 2007 for the introduction of a car parking management system at Merry Hill and the Waterfront. The criteria will be satisfied on implementation of parking charges and their compatibility is proposed to be measured against those of the other Black Country strategic centres.

8.17 Increased Comparison Retail Figures in RSS Phase 2

8.18 The second phase revision of the Regional Spatial Strategy has progressed to Preferred Option Stage (December 2007) and there is a need to plan for signficantly increased comparison retail figures from 51,000m2 to 2021 to 65,000m2 to 2021 and a further 30,000m2 between 2021 and 2026. (It is acknowledged that these figures may be revised through the Second Phase Review of West Midlands Regional Spatial Strategy.) These floorspace requirements are based on the West Midlands Regional Centres Study Update undertaken by Roger Tym and Partners. They take account of a number of factors, including:

  • population projections, adjusted to reflect the WMRSS Strategy on the distribution of new housing within the Region;

  • per capita expenditure projections;

  • the growth of internet shopping;

  • continued increase in floorspace efficiency;

  • local capacity constraints;

  • the urban renaissance focus of the WMRSS Strategy;

  • the principle of accessibility - i.e. that where possible local needs should be met locally;

  • commercial viability.

8.19 The WMRSS Phase One Revision proposed floorspace requirements for the four Black Country centres have been reviewed and re-assessed on a consistent basis with the rest of the Region. This re-assessment has however maintained the distribution of comparison floorspace growth between these centres agreed through the WMRSS Phase One Revision.

8.20 It is recognised in RSS Phase Two - Draft Preferred Option that the delivery of town centre redevelopment projects can be a lengthy process, and that the financial viability of projects may require a minimum scale of development. For this reason it is not proposed that there should be any general phasing of requirements for the period 2006 - 2021 but it is recognised and accepted that individual planning authorities may wish to introduce local phasing policies.

8.21 BHAAP Comparison Retail Phasing

8.22 A key issue for the AAP is to identify locations within the town centre boundary to meet these future retail needs.The unique circumstances of creating a new town must ensure retail growth will focus on  joining up the three main components of the centre, the Waterfront, Merry Hill Shopping Centre and Brierley Hill High Street. 

Phase 1:

Locating the 51,000m2 (RSS Phase 1) comparison growth at Merry Hill between 2006 - 2016 would enable the provision of a large anchor store which would improve the attractiveness of the town centre. Further retail development at Merry Hill will consolidate its established role as a sub-regional shopping centre and second largest retail centre in the region.

Phase 2:

The next phasing is 2006 - 2021 with the priority to support new retail development at the High Street through the redevelopment of the Moor Street Shopping Centre and adjacent land and buildings with an allocation of 6,500m2 comparison (gross) floorspace.

Also in this phasing 5,500m2 retail development has been allocated within the Merry Hill, Canal Walk quarters and a further 2,000 m2 additional growth  within Lower Brierley, Archill, Canal Walk North and Waterfront West. No application for development at Merry Hill will be registered until a detailed scheme for the redevelopment of the Moor Street Shopping Centre has been approved, unless no planning application has been received and approved within 18 months of the formal approval of the RSS Phase 2 Revision.

Prior to 2016 planning permission will only be granted for Phase 2 allocations where they meet the policy tests in the Joint Core Strategy for the Black Country.

Phase 3:

There is capacity for an additional 30,000m2 comparison retail for the 2021-2026 period within Merry Hill and Canal Walk development blocks. However, planning permission for developments intended to meet requirements arising after 2021 should not be granted before 2016. The RSS Phase 2 Preferred Option states that the comparison retail figures post 2021 should be treated as indicative only and should not be committed at this stage as there are considerable uncertainties in projecting future comparison retail requirements over a long period and they will be subject to future reviews of the WMRSS.

8.23 The floorspace requirements set out should be treated as specific and should not normally be exceeded. RSS Phase 2 states that local authorities will  wish to review them through their Core Strategies. Any significant variations (i.e. by more than 5,000m2) should be justified on the basis of clear evidence, and if higher figures are proposed it should be demonstrated that this would not be at the expense of the health of and investment in other strategic centres.

Convenience Retail Shopping

8.24 The WMRSS does not provide floorspace requirements for convenience retail growth as it is a matter that will be examined in Local Development Documents and Area Action Plans. As part of the Joint Core Strategy evidence base there is a requirement for a study to look at needs for convenience shopping, in the strategic and other centres to support housing growth in particular corridors. This assessment will be carried out over coming months and when the results are available the preferred option will be updated accordingly. The BHAAP will have to consider how and where within Brierley Hill convenience shops should be delivered to meet that need. Brierley Hill High Street will play an important convenience role and contribute to the vitality and viability of the area and in the first instance, there is capacity for 10,000m2 of new convenience retail as part of the Moor Centre redevelopment proposals phased between 2006 - 2021. There is also capacity for some 3,250m2 of convenience retail at Merry Hil and Canal Walk Central as part of the comparison retail phase 1(2006 - 2016). Over the long term there could be significant further capacity for convenience retailing through the reconfiguration and expansion of existing stores, provided it can be demonstrated that there is a need which is of an appropriate scale.

Brierley Hill Primary Shopping Area

8.25 It is important in creating a town centre at Brierley Hill that retail is a primary function. This will be done by designating a Primary Shopping Area which will represent the core retail activity in the centre where the retail offer is protected and retained. For a fuller description of a primary shopping area see Table 2 of Annex A to PPS6. Merry Hill and Canal Walk Central development blocks will be defined as the primary shopping area to consolidate retail activity within the core area. Within this area proposals for non-retail development will only be permitted where  they have no adverse impact on the vitality and viability.   As the primary shopping area is predominantly made up of an out-of-town shopping centre on several levels as opposed to a traditional Town Centre High Street  is has been decided it is not practical to identify primary retail frontages. The Brierley Hill AAP will resist proposals where the granting permission would lead to the primary shopping area being taken by less than 70% of A1 retail uses.

Brierley Hill Local Shopping Area

8.26 Brierley Hill High Street has previously functioned as a District Centre with a supermarket, indoor market and independent shops in the central section of the High Street, including the Moor Centre, underpinning its role for convenience shopping. This role will be protected by identifying Brierley Hill High Street as a Local Shopping Area. The priority for this area is to safeguard its local shopping and community function and improve its accessibility with the wider Brierley Hill Town Centre. It is therefore proposed to designate the High Street as a Local Shopping Area and identify 'secondary frontages' within it to protect the retail uses. Secondary retail frontages provide greater opportunities for a diversity of uses to support independent and convenience retailers and non A1 uses such as offices, restaurants and cafes. Allowing up to 50% non A1 uses in the secondary frontages will encourage a diversity of uses to develop in the Local Shopping Area to support the local shopping function of the High Street.

Hot Food Takeaways

8.27 Hot food takeaways have become increasingly popular in recent years and can make an important contribution to the vitality and viability of an area. However, unless their hours and days of use are controlled and concentrations of them avoided, they can cause disturbance to local residents, especially those living above or adjacent to premises. Hot food takeaways are most appropriately located in the town centre but the BH AAP Preferred Options Report proposes a policy to control the number of uses in the Town Centre as a whole.