Draft Core Strategy (incorporating Preferred Options) October 2010

Draft Core Strategy (incorporating Preferred Options)

Safeguarding Employment Land

9.28 Employment land in this context is defined as uses within Classes B1, B2 and B8 of the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order  1987 as amended. Evidence demonstrates that there has been considerable pressure for local employment sites to be redeveloped for other uses, particularly housing and retailing. Data for the ELR illustrates that since the beginning of the plan period (1st April 2006 - 31st March 2010) 10.8 hectares of employment land has been lost to uses other than 'traditional' employment uses (B1, B2 and B8 of the Use Classes Order). Looking back over a longer timeframe, since 1991 47.09 hectares of employment land has been lost, demonstrating how cumulative losses of land can add up over time to have a significant impact on the supply of employment land in an area.

9.29 The importance of maintaining existing supply and protecting the overall availability and distribution of employment land should not be underestimated. Existing employment sites provide the main supply of employment land and are required to meet the needs of the market by retaining a mix of older, more affordable premises, whilst maintaining a local balance between housing and employment. It must also be remembered that any loss of sites/premises will necessitate an increase in the amount of new floorspace required over the plan period, which could include Greenfield land. On this basis, it is crucially important to safeguard those existing sites that remain fit for purpose.

9.30 Through Stage 1 of the ELR, an assessment of business parks and trading estates was undertaken to judge which are likely to remain fit for employment use in the longer term. The assessment identifies that whilst a small number of sites are clearly no longer suitable, the majority are well suited to continued employment use and should be safeguarded.

9.31 Exceptions are where existing sites or premises are no longer suited to modern commercial needs; they are poorly located for economic development and where conflicts of use exist between the employment activity and its neighbours.

9.32 Any proposal to redevelop an existing employment site for non-employment uses must provide robust and credible evidence of viability and marketing, to support the argument that the site is no longer fit for purpose as an employment site. All applications that would result in the loss of employment floorspace must demonstrate that effort has been made to retain the site or buildings in employment use. The Council has produced a guidance document "Commercial Marketing of Property in Relation to Planning and Listed Building Applications"[1] which outlines that applicants will need to demonstrate, in a marketing statement, that a reasonable attempt has been made to continue the present use, or (where appropriate) find suitable new or mixed uses that are compatible with the buildings or land. In summary, the document requires the following:

  • A marketing strategy illustrating a realistic price for the land/premises;
  • Evidence to demonstrate that the property has been actively marketed for a minimum of 12 months;
  • A record of all enquiries and inspections, along with reasons for lack of progress; and
  • A marketing statement explaining how the guidelines have been met and summarising the outcomes of the marketing exercise.

9.33 It is worth noting that whilst the document "Commercial Marketing of Property in Relation to Planning and Listed Building Applications" requires a marketing period of 12 months, in order to have a consistent approach across the Core Strategy, Policy EP3 requires active marketing for a period of 18 months.

9.34 Where decisions on viability are finely balanced, a third party will be employed to advise the District Council and the cost will be recovered from the applicant where appropriate.

9.35 In addition to any supporting evidence concerning viability, it must be demonstrated that the site is in a sustainable location for the proposed new land use. Allowing uses that are unsustainable or incompatible with the wider surrounding area would not be desirable simply because it brings about the redevelopment of an employment site.

9.36 There has been pressure in the past to lose 'traditional' employment sites (B Use class) to food retailing activities such as supermarkets (A1 Use), this has been resisted on planning grounds, on the basis that food retailing should be undertaken from preferably Town Centre locations and because the number and quality of full time equivalent jobs achieved through the retail activity are arguably less and not of the same quality as more skilled manufacturing/industrial/office jobs ('traditional' employment activities). Food retailing obviously provides valuable jobs for many, but they should be in town centre locations wherever possible and given that employment land is being lost across the District, the provision of jobs in retailing should not be at the expense of traditional employment sectors, especially if we are seeking to provide a range and mix of sites to support economic diversification.

Policy EP3 Safeguarding Employment Land
 

Sites and premises which:

  • No longer meet the needs of businesses;
  • Are poorly located for economic development purposes; or
  • Create conflicts of use with neighbouring users.

Should be considered for development of alternative uses in the following sequence:

  • Non B use-class employment generating uses (e.g. retailing or leisure uses such as day care nurseries or gymnasiums;
  • Community use;
  • Mixed-use redevelopment including residential;
  • Residential.

Changes of use will not be permitted unless:

  • A marketing strategy and statement is submitted with the planning application;
  • Thorough evidence is submitted that demonstrates that the commercial units are no longer needed, are poorly located for economic development or are not viable for an employment use;
  • Evidence has been submitted with the application which demonstrates that the site/premises has been actively marketed locally at a reasonable price or rent for at least 18 months prior to application submission;
  • It is quite clear that the above sequence has been applied to the redevelopment of the site;
  • Adequate access exists or can be achieved to serve the proposed development;
  • The proposal would result in significant environmental improvements or enhancements to the character of the area; and
  • The site is not in an unsustainable location for the land use proposed.
1. This is available on the Council's website. [back]