8.1 The need to support and encourage sustainable economic growth is a key national objective. Economic growth generates wealth and raises living standards which contribute to the quality of people’s lives. High and stable levels of employment can support healthier, safer and more inclusive communities. Economic growth can also help to tackle deprivation and deliver regeneration and improvements to our built environment. It is therefore an important contributor to delivering more sustainable and prosperous communities.
8.2 Despite the recent economic downturn the district remains in a strong economic position with unemployment typically below the Warwickshire and National averages. The district has the highest figure for Gross Value Added (GVA)1 per head in Warwickshire and is in the top 20% of local authority districts at a national level. In addition it has experienced higher than average business growth and high investment with the development of sites such as Tournament Fields and Tachbrook Park helping to drive growth and prosperity. The decline of traditional manufacturing industries has allowed the redevelopment of former industrial premises such as Spa Park.
8.3 The district has seen significant growth in higher value knowledge intensive industries over the past 10 years, particularly professional business services, computing and software and high value engineering and manufacturing. There is support nationally and at the sub regional level through the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to encourage further growth in these sectors. There has been significant investment at the University of Warwick and Coventry University both of which have a central role in linking these new research and creative industries and contributing a large graduate population to the workforce.
8.4 The district benefits from a highly skilled workforce with the highest percentage of residents qualified to degree level or above (NVQ4+) in the County and the lowest proportion of residents with no qualifications (11.3% compared to the Warwickshire average of 14.6%)
8.5 The national economic position has however, highlighted the vulnerability of the economy and the need to work harder to ensure the District’s businesses and people are able to respond to the rapid changes taking place, particularly related to new technology, whilst remaining a destination for business and innovation.
Relevant Issue & Strategic Objectives
8.6 Issues: The key issue for the new Local Plan is how it can shape and co-ordinate future development and economic investment within the district to help address the following issues:
- Identify a sustainable level of economic growth to meet existing and future employment needs, and to help address pockets of unemployment and worklessness
- Maintain and develop the knowledge intensive industries to ensure the district retains its strong economy and is resilient to changing economic circumstances in the future, such as public sector job losses
- Improve the rates of businesses growth in the district to support the ‘organic’ growth of the local economy; and
- Improve transport infrastructure, the supply of homes, and the skills in the local population to ensure the needs of the local economy can be met within the district
8.7 The Local Plan should also maintain a flexible supply of land for business and assessing whether the currently available employment land is of the right type, and in the right location, to meet the future needs of the economy
8.8 Objectives: See in particular objective 1 as set out in paragraphs 4.13 to 4.15 above
8.9 Sustainable Community Strategy Theme: The related aim is that there is a strong, diverse economy which provides jobs for all.
It is the Council’s preferred option to ensure the availability of a wide range of employment land and buildings to meet the needs of businesses into the future by:
Supporting the delivery of priorities set out in the Council’s emerging Economic Development and Regeneration Strategy
Supporting the continued growth of knowledge industries and the low carbon economy within the district whilst maintaining a diverse broad based economy to ensure all sectors of employment are provided for.
Allocating a proportion of land at the following strategic sites (See Map 4) for Employment uses:
- Land at Thickthorn, between Kenilworth and the A46
- Land South of Warwick and Leamington to the west of Europa Way
- Land North of Leamington at North Milverton and Blackdown
Protecting existing employment land and buildings from changes to other uses unless there is evidence that it is not suitable to accommodate projected needs.
Developing a policy framework to support appropriate development at identified Major Developed Sites in the Green Belt which may include site specific policies for Stoneleigh Park, the University of Warwick, Coventry Airport and the Former Honiley Airfield.
Enabling the regeneration and enhancement of existing employment areas through the potential identification of dedicated Employment Regeneration Zones.
Enabling the growth of appropriate rural businesses and diversification of the rural economy.
Working with partners in the Coventry and Warwickshire sub-region to explore the case for land within the District at the Coventry and Warwickshire Gateway Site (See Map 3) being identified as a site of regional importance for employment to serve the regeneration needs of the Coventry and Warwickshire sub region.
Justification for Preferred Option
8.10 In developing the Preferred Option the following sources of information have been considered:
- National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)
- Draft Economic development and Regeneration Strategy (2012 to 2017)
- Warwick District Local Economic Assessment October (2011)
- Warwick District Employment Land Review (2009) and Employment Land Review Addendum (January 2011)
- Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) 5 year Strategy (2011 to 2016)
National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)
8.11 The NPPF is clear that significant weight should be placed on the need to support and encourage sustainable economic growth and that the planning system should not act as an impediment to this. Planning authorities should plan proactively to meet the development needs of businesses identifying and seeking to address potential barriers to investment (including a poor environment or any lack of infrastructure, services or housing).
8.12 Local planning authorities should set out a clear economic vision and strategy to proactively encourage sustainable economic growth and identify strategic sites to match this and meet anticipated needs over the plan period. Support existing sectors and where possible identify and plan for new and emerging sectors. Policies should also be flexible to respond to changes in economic circumstances and need. In particular local authorities should plan positively to support knowledge driven creative or high technology industries
8.13 Plans should identify priority areas for economic regeneration, infrastructure provision and environmental enhancement. Plans should also facilitate flexible working practices such as the integration of residential and commercial uses.
8.14 The NPPF is clear that land allocations should be regularly reviewed and that planning policies should avoid the long term protection of sites where there is no reasonable prospect of a site being used for that purpose. Where this is the case applications seeking alternative uses for employment land and buildings should be considered on merit giving regard to market signals and the need for different land uses to support sustainable local communities.
8.15 In order to promote a strong rural economy planning policies should:
Support the sustainable growth business in rural areas both through conversion of existing buildings and well design new buildings
Promote the development and diversification of agricultural and land based rural businesses
Support sustainable rural tourism and leisure developments
8.16 Working with neighbouring authorities and the LEP local authorities should develop a robust evidence base to demonstrate a clear understanding of business needs within their area. This should include:
Evidence of quantitative and qualitative need for land for economic development
Assess the existing and future supply of land available for economic development and its suitability to meet identified needs. Review of employment land should be undertaken at the same time as the SHMA
Draft Economic Development and Regeneration Strategy 2012 to 2017
In line with the NPPF the Council is developing its vision for the direction and focus of economic development in the District through this strategy. It intends ‘to deliver an economically vibrant and creative community that is low carbon based, focused of the development of knowledge economy, creative industries, high value engineering, research and design industries, healthy and resilient town centres and reinvigorated rural areas’. To achieve this six priorities are identified:
- Grow existing business base
- Create the conditions that attract investment
- Support and grow the retail, visitor and rural economies
- Invest in regeneration
- Improve skills and access to employment
- Build an entrepreneurial enterprise and innovative culture
Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Strategy (LEP) 5 year plan (2011 to 2016)
8.18 The LEP has set out its vision for the sub regional economy. It has three key ambitions:
- Key Ambition 1: Create an environment where it is easy for businesses to start, locate and thrive
- Key Ambition 2: Accelerate the growth of our economy through targeted support in our key strategic sectors
- Key Ambition 3: Tackle the skills problem by aligning supply and demand
8.19 The identified target sectors for Coventry and Warwickshire are advanced engineering and high value manufacturing, automotive and low carbon mobility, business and professional services, computer and gaming, creative and cultural industries, low carbon technologies, sustainable construction and tourism. The strategy also identifies the need to ensure that relevant sites and infrastructure provision to support the growth of these target sectors.
Developing the Employment Land Requirement and Supply
8.20 As part of the preparation of the previous Core Strategy an Employment Land Review (2009) was carried out to assess the employment land need in relation to the housing and growth targets set out in the Phase two Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS). An addendum to this was prepared which considered the expected employment requirement based on three scenarios for growth put forward in the Issues paper. These documents were used as a starting point in developing the Preferred Option.
8.21 The Councils preferred growth option for housing (set out in detail in Housing – section 7 would require 8,253 additional jobs to be provided through the plan period from 2011 to 2031. It is anticipated that this would require in the region of 66 hectares (ha) of employment land over the period 2011 to 2026. However, further work is needed to clarify this figure in relation to more up to date economic and demographic projections and to examine the impact of potential development at the Coventry and Warwickshire Gateway site (discussed later in this paper). It will also be necessary to establish how the requirement should be split in terms of the need for different types of employment (i.e. B1, B2 and B8).
8.22 The Council has a portfolio of committed employment land made up of sites with planning permission, those covered by development briefs or allocations included within the adopted Local Plan. Progress on these sites is monitored and reported annually. An initial review of these sites was undertaken to identify those which are unlikely to come forward, where other uses had been granted planning permission and where employment land had been proposed for housing through the proposed growth option. A supply of approximately 43 hectares has been identified which leaves a requirement of in the region of 23 hectares of new employment land to be allocated.
8.23 There is potential that a proportion of the overall requirement could be met through proposals to redevelop and intensify existing employment at sites such as Stoneleigh Park and the University of Warwick. It is proposed that the Draft Local Plan includes site specific policies to provide the framework for bringing these proposals forward.
8.24 University of Warwick - The Phase two RSS recognised that the University of Warwick has a role in delivering employment growth in Warwick District. The Council recognises the importance of the University as a higher education institution but also its role in supporting the research and development of knowledge based industries in the district. The University has set out its expansion plans to 2018 including proposals for employment related development and it is reasonable that this could contribute in part to the employment land supply. The removal of land from the Green Belt to support these proposals would however need to demonstrate exceptional circumstances.
8.25 Stoneleigh Park – – The former National Agricultural Centre is an established employment area within the Green Belt. It provides a unique collection of uses of national importance related to the rural economy. As the site brings significant benefits to the local economy, the Council is keen to support its ongoing viability, subject to managing its impact on traffic, local communities, adjacent historic parks and gardens and the green belt.
8.26 The Council will assess the need for site specific policies to deal with other Major Developed Sites in the Green Belt currently identified in the adopted Local Plan such as the Former Honiley Airfield.
Location of employment land
8.27 Options for the location of new employment sites are closely linked to the distribution of housing. The Council has set out in detail the growth options it has considered for housing in section 7. The Local Plan must provide employment opportunities in locations to meet the needs of new housing therefore the selection of sites is guided by those identified for housing (see section 7 and Maps 3 and 4). In addition, priority should be given to available previously developed land within the urban areas first. The existing supply portfolio takes account of the available brownfield options including redevelopment of the Former Ford Foundry, Leamington, Land at Benfords, Cape Road and the Former IBM car park, Warwick.
8.28 The remaining options for locating employment land are on green field sites. However, it is anticipated that the requirement can be accommodated within the strategic sites allocated for housing as part of the Councils overall garden suburbs approach. The preferred choice of sites seeks to distribute employment opportunities across the district taking account of the existing concentration to the south of Warwick and Leamington and limited opportunities in Kenilworth.
8.29 It is proposed that committed employment land at Warwick Gates is developed for housing and as an alternative a proportion of land at South of Gallows Hill/ West of Europa Way, and Myton Gardens Suburb (West of Europa Way) is allocated for employment uses. This arrangement of sites presents better options for configuring employment uses and locating development in the vicinity of Warwick Technology Park to support the clustering of industries and expansion of knowledge based sectors. Concentrating employment uses in this area also increases opportunities to utilise existing infrastructure and could support the development of new infrastructure to serve the needs of businesses such as a Park and Ride (see Map 4).
8.30 Providing for employment land north of Leamington would address an existing deficit in provision and have the potential to reduce the need to travel across the district. Land at Thickthorn benefits from access to the strategic transport network and will address existing shortages in employment. There may also be opportunities for small scale employment development within the Category 1 villages (see section 7) as part of mixed use housing sites.
8.31 More widely the Council will develop a policy framework to support the development of a strong and diverse rural economy. This should include policies on agriculture and farm diversification schemes, the expansion of existing buildings, creation of new rural enterprises and the reuse of buildings for economic purposes such as tourism.
8.32 An alternative option for locating new employment land would be to allocate land within the other sites identified for housing. Opportunities at Whitnash East are thought to be constrained in terms of transport infrastructure and in particular access to the major transport network. The land available at Fieldgate Lane, Lowes Farm and Red Hill Farm is considered to be of insufficient size to accommodate employment opportunities.
8.33 Coventry Gateway - The Coventry and Warwickshire LEP is committed to the identification of a site of regional importance for employment to serve the needs of the Coventry and Warwickshire sub region and have indicated that land at Coventry and Warwickshire Gateway (see Map 3) could be a suitable site. It has the potential to provide in the region of 14,000 jobs as well as facilitate major improvements to the transport network. The Council is supportive in principle but considers that further work is needed to justify the identification of this site:
- To demonstrate that there are not any other preferable and suitable sites within the sub-region
- To understand the local impacts of a major development at the Gateway in relation to housing and employment need and the District’s transport infrastructure
- To explore the case for releasing land in the green belt
8.34 The Council is working with partners on the CWLEP and neighbouring local authorities to undertake this research.
Protecting Existing Employment Land
8.35 In order to maintain an appropriate supply of employment land to address future employment needs it is important to ensure existing employment land and buildings is protected. However, the NPPF is clear that local planning authorities should avoid the long term protection of employment sites where there is no prospect of the site being used for that purpose. In line with the government’s approach to driving economic growth the NPPF has recommended the need to consider flexibility towards alternative uses in instances where employment land has laid dormant for many years. More widely it is recognised that the portfolio of employment land should be flexible to respond to changing needs.
8.36 The Council has assessed its current employment land supply however it will review its position with regard to any proposals on longstanding sites based on the relative merits of each case.
8.37 It is also recognised that there are existing employment areas which are in need of regeneration and may not be in the right location or offer the right type of environment to meet current demands. It is considered that an assessment of existing employment areas is needed to identify these and further work to establish the appropriateness of identifying Employment Regeneration Zones to address these issues.
8.38 The Council will also consider opportunities for employment led regeneration within the town centre as part of the appraisal of town centre ‘opportunity sites’.
Supporting Economic Growth
8.39 The Local Plan will provide a policy framework to deliver the objectives set out in the emerging Economic Development and Regeneration Strategy, and in particular to support the continued growth of knowledge based industries within the District. This approach is supported in the NPPF and at the local level knowledge driven industries are identified as a priority sector by the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP.
8.40 The District is well suited to an approach that has a focus on knowledge based industries and low carbon technologies. However the Council recognises that supporting the growth of these sectors must be set in the wider context of delivering a broad based, flexible and diverse economy to ensure that a wide range of employment opportunities are provided. This may mean taking steps to support and regenerate some existing employment areas (see potential proposals for Employment Regeneration Zones) as well as supporting the rural economy.
8.41 In providing employment land it is also important to ensure that appropriate infrastructure is in place to support the needs of businesses (for example, the existence of high speed broadband). These requirements will be considered in more detail through the emerging Draft Infrastructure Delivery Plan and in the development of the Draft Local Plan.
1 GVA is a measure of the value of goods or services produced in an area, industry or sector of an economy