a) To report the findings of the latest ‘Employment Land Review’ for Tendring which updates the evidence base in support of the employment land policies in the emerging Local Plan;
b) To seek the Committee’s endorsement for suggested amendments to the employment land policies aimed at ensuring that they are up to date, address some of the constructive criticisms raised during public consultation and are as robust and effective as possible; and
c) To seek the Committee’s agreement for the suggested amendments to be put forward for the Planning Inspector’s consideration when they come to examine Section 2 of the Local Plan in 2020.
The Committee had before it a comprehensive report (and appendices) of the Corporate Director (Planning and Regeneration) (A.1) which:-
a) reported the findings of the latest ‘Employment Land Review’ for Tendring which updated the evidence base in support of the employment land policies in the emerging Local Plan;
b) sought its endorsement for suggested amendments to the employment land policies aimed at ensuring that they are up to date, addressed some of the constructive criticisms raised during public consultation and were as robust and effective as possible; and
c) sought its agreement for the suggested amendments to be put forward for the Planning Inspector’s consideration when they come to examine Section 2 of the Local Plan in 2020.
The Committee recalled that one of the objectives of the planning system, both at a national and local level, was to build a strong, responsive and competitive economy. The Council’s emerging Local Plan sought to support economic growth and job provision through a variety of means, including through the protection and future provision of ‘employment land’ – i.e. land for business and industrial use in classes B1 (Business), B2 (General Industry) and B8 (Storage and Distribution).
Employment Land Review
Members were reminded that the ‘Employment Land Review’ was part of the evidence base to inform the Local Plan’s employment land policies and to help determine which sites to protect or allocate for business and industrial use.
An Employment Land Review had initially been undertaken by consultants on behalf of the Council in 2013 and had been updated in 2016 and again in 2019. Key findings from the latest 2019 update included the following:
· Projected demand for additional employment land (over and above existing sites already in employment use) was forecast to be low for the period to 2033 (between 0 hectares and 9 hectares), based on market trends and analysis of different scenarios.
· Sites with extant outline or detailed planning permission already accounted for over 27 hectares of future employment land and an additional 17 hectares were allocated for employment use in the emerging Local Plan and were available to the open market.
· A further 53 hectares of land across a variety of additional sites had been assessed for their potential suitability for business and industrial use and those might provide options for further development in the longer term (potentially through a future review of the local Plan).
· The existing range of operational employment sites across the District continued to play an important role in meeting the needs of existing businesses and most should continue to be protected, however, some sites had been identified as not suitable for further business activity beyond the specific requirements of their current occupiers and could be considered for alternative forms of development if current operations were to cease.
Overall, the Employment Land Review had demonstrated that there was already more than enough employment land available in Tendring to meet projected demand for business and industrial floor space up to 2033 and there was consequently no need to include any additional land in the emerging Local Plan over and above what was already allocated.
Policy SP4 – Providing for Employment
It was reported that Policy SP4 within Section 1 of the emerging Local Plan set out the overall employment land targets for each of the North Essex Authorities (Tendring, Colchester and Braintree) for the period up to 2033. As published, the plan currently proposed a range of between 20 and 38 hectares of employment land for Tendring; although this was set to be revised down to a range of 12 to 20 hectares in line with the Local Plan Inspector’s interim conclusions following the examination hearings that had taken place in 2018. The latest Employment Land Review broadly supported the view that based on up to date projections, the future requirement for additional employment land was likely to be lower than originally predicted.
Policy PP6 – Employment Sites
Members were informed that Policy PP6 within Section 2 of the emerging Local Plan sought to protect existing operational sites for employment use. However, having considered some of the constructive criticisms submitted by various parties as part of the last Local Plan consultation in 2017, Officers believed that the wording of the policy could be simplified and that the plan would also be greatly improved if the policies maps and local maps could expressly show the location of the existing employment sites to be protected – as opposed to requiring the reader to refer separately to the latest Employment Land Review document. Officers were therefore requesting the Committee’s agreement to put forward some amendments to Policy PP6 for the Planning Inspector’s consideration as part of the examination.
Having considered the findings of the updated Employment Land Review, Officers’ suggested amendments would include identifying the following employment sites as protected sites in the Local Plan:
· Ford Road (Newman) Industrial Estate, Clacton;
· Oakwood and Crusader Business Park, Clacton;
· Gorse Lane Industrial Estate, Clacton;
· Valleybridge Road Industrial Estate, Clacton;
· Oxford Road Industrial Estate, Clacton;
· SATO Site, Valley Road, Harwich (supporting the current planning proposal to reconfigure the factory within its site alongside new housing);
· Durite Works, Valley Road, Harwich;
· Mercedes Site, Bathside, Harwich;
· Europa Way, Harwich;
· Kirby Cross Trading Estate, Clare Road, Kirby Cross;
· Harmer’s Foundry, Walton on the Naze;
· Lawford Dale Industrial Estate, Manningtree;
· EDME Maltings, Mistley (working with owners to secure the future re-use of heritage buildings);
· Crisp Maltings, Mistley;
· Mistley Marine, Mistley;
· Mistley Port, Mistley;
· Morses Lane Industrial Estate, Brightlingsea;
· Shipyard Estate, Brightlingsea;
· Old Ipswich Road, Ardleigh.
· Lanswood Park, Elmstead Market
· Plough Road Centre, Great Bentley;
· Martell’s Pit Industrial Estate, Ardleigh; and
· Rice Bridge Industrial Estate, Thorpe le Soken
The proposed simplified wording to Policy PP6, which would apply to the above sites, was set out in the Officer’s report and in Appendix 2 thereto.
Policy PP7 – Employment Allocations
The Committee was made aware that Policy PP7 within Section 2 of the emerging Local Plan contained the list of sites that were allocated for future business and industrial development. The policy currently listed 8 sites with the potential to deliver between 19 and 22ha of employment land up to 2033 and further development beyond; but this list did not provide an accurate and up to date representation of the full range of employment sites (amounting to some 37ha) that were available for inward investment, many of which already benefited from outline or detailed planning permission. This included 11.2 hectares of land south west of Horsley Cross which had now obtained detailed planning permission.
Whilst 37 hectares was well in excess of the projected employment land requirement, there was nothing to stop the Council making an ‘over-allocation’ of employment land and, if anything, this would ensure a choice of opportunities for potential inward investment to help create jobs in line with the Council’s priorities.
Officers considered that the plan would be improved if Policy PP7 could be updated to include all of the available employment sites and therefore were requesting the Committee’s agreement to put forward some amendments for the Planning Inspector’s consideration as part of the examination. The proposed amended wording to Policy PP7 was set out in the Officer’s report and in Appendix 2 thereto.
It was also recommended that the Local Plan’s policies maps and local maps would be amended to show all of the sites listed in the above policy.
Policy PP13 – The Rural Economy
Members were advised that a large section of Policy PP6, as currently worded, related to farm diversification schemes and other rural employment developments as opposed to existing protected employment sites. In suggesting a simplification of Policy PP6, Officers were also requesting the moving of the wording relating to farm diversification schemes into Policy PP13 which specifically related to the rural economy. Officers considered that this would be a more logical place for such policy wording to be provided.
Making amendments to the Local Plan
The Committee was aware that the Local Plan had already been submitted to the Secretary of State for it to be examined by a Government-appointed Planning Inspector. The Inspector had the power to recommend ‘modifications’ to the Local Plan, following the examination, aimed at addressing any issues with the soundness of the Plan. Whilst it would be at the Inspector’s discretion which modifications were formally recommended, the Council would have the opportunity to suggest changes to the Inspector, for their consideration, as part of the examination process. It was recommended that the changes outlined in this Officer report be put forward to the Inspector for their consideration, at the appropriate time.
Matters raised by Members included issues in regards to derelict employment land, protection of employment land and encouragement for farms to diversify.
Having considered and discussed the information and advice contained in the report and the appendices thereto:-
It was moved by Councillor Scott, seconded by Councillor Fairley and unanimously:-
RESOLVED that -
(a) the findings of the 2019 update of the ‘Tendring Employment Land Review (ELR) undertaken by Hatch Regeneris and BE Group (September 2019) (as set out in Appendix 1 to item A.1 of the Report of the Corporate Director (Planning and Regeneration)) be noted and be included in the Local Plan evidence base;
(b) the Officers’ suggested amendments to Policy PP6, Policy PP7 and Policy PP13 in the Tendring District Local Plan 2013-2033 and Beyond: Publication Draft (the emerging Local Plan), as set out in the aforementioned report and Appendix 2 thereto be approved;
(c) the Head of Planning be authorised to put forward the suggested amendments to Policies PP6, PP7 and PP13 to the Planning Inspector for their consideration as part of the examination of Section 2 of the emerging Local Plan; and
(d) farmers within the District should be encouraged to take up telecommunications projects on their properties in order to boost jobs and help provide a better telecommunications infrastructure in the District.