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Preferred Options

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5. Employment

Core Strategy Strategic Objective

To maintain a strong and growing economy through ensuring a range of suitable sites for employment uses are available and able to be developed to meet the future demand for jobs

SCS Strategic Aim

There is a strong, diverse economy which provides jobs for all.

Why is this a Strategic Objective?

5.1 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.

5.2 Warwick District has in recent times benefitted from a strong economy with unemployment typically below the Warwickshire and National average. The District has been successful in attracting a number of major new employers, as well as seeing the growth of many existing businesses. However, the recent economic downturn has 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.

5.3 Across the Region, but particularly in Warwick and Stratford Districts, there has been a growth in knowledge intensive industries in terms of overall employment in the last few years. This has coincided with the decline of traditional manufacturing industries which has allowed the redevelopment of former industrial premises such as Spa Park. Warwick District is part of the Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire high-technology corridor, and the University of Warwick and Coventry University have a central role in linking these new research and creative industries and contributing a large graduate population to the workforce.

5.4 It is important therefore, as part of working harder, to ensure the Core Strategy is able to provide for the needs of businesses by identifying sufficient good quality land to attract further investment and deliver job opportunities to meet the needs of a growing population.

Evidence:

Participation

5.5 Public consultation on the 'Issues Paper' identified strong support for increasing the amount of employment in the district. Suggestions for the type of employment we should encourage included, high technology industries, service sector jobs, tourism, biotechnology and professional and financial/business services. A number of respondents considered that there should be further new employment development in Kenilworth.

Research

5.6 The following studies and strategies available from the Council website have also been taken into account in informing the Preferred Options:

  • Warwick District Employment Land Review 2009

  • Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire Employment Land Study 2007

  • Coventry City Council Employment Land Review 2008

  • West Midlands Regional Integrated Economic Assessment 2008

  • West Midlands Economic Strategy

  • Economic Regeneration Strategy for the Coventry, Solihull & Warwickshire Sub-Region 2002

  • Coventry, Solihull, Warwickshire Hi-Tech Corridor Strategy Document 2006-2008

National and Regional Planning Policies

5.7 Relevant national planning policy on employment is set out in PPG4: Industrial and Commercial Development and Small Firms. This was published in 1992 and is now being updated to reflect the Government's objectives for economic development through a draft PPS4: Planning for Prosperous Economies, which was published in May 2009.

5.8 This requires local planning authorities to assess the detailed need for employment land over the plan period, and the existing and future supply of land available. They should use this information to positively and proactively encourage sustainable economic growth in line with the local vision and strategy. This should include planning for new or emerging sectors by identifying a flexible range of sites to meet the requirements in the RSS, prioritising previously developed land and encouraging new uses for vacant or derelict buildings, making provision for the location, expansion and promotion of clusters or networks of knowledge driven industry, and supporting existing business sectors by making provision for a broad range of business types.

5.9 Regional planning policy within the RSS directs economic growth in areas like Warwick to locations accessible to the major urban areas, such as Coventry, by sustainable forms of transport in order to promote positive economic linkages. In addition, it supports economic growth in areas that serve the needs of local regeneration areas, and in areas where it can deliver a better balance between housing and employment in order to avoid commuting. As part of diversifying the regional economy, the RSS also identifies high technology corridors, including Coventry, Solihull & Warwickshire, where cluster developments linked to research and advanced technologies will be promoted. Furthermore, the needs of further/higher education institutions and research facilities to grow and expand should be facilitated.

5.10 The RSS requires local authorities to provide a range and choice of readily available employment sites but does not include any requirements. However, the emerging Phase Two Revision of the RSS identifies that Warwick District should make provision for a rolling five year supply of 30ha of readily available employment land (both new and redeveloped land) outside town centres throughout the period to 2026. This provision should include a 50% share of the University of Warwick expansion. In addition, a provision should be also made for likely longer-term employment land requirements. An indicative figure of 90ha has been identified for longer-term requirements, although this is to be tested at the local level and revised accordingly through the Core Strategy.

5.11 That testing has taken place through an employment land review which is published separately on the Council's website. In accordance with draft PPS4, this has assessed the demand for employment land outside of town centres for the period to 2026 based upon the level of housing growth for the District (10,800 dwellings) within the emerging RSS Phase Two Revision. This has taken into account the recent economic downturn and other factors, such as the increased levels of home-working and developments within the town centres. This demand is assessed in terms of both the quantity and quality of land having regard to the likely sectors of the economy the District is targeting, e.g. hi-technology and knowledge based research companies.

5.12 The review then considered the supply of existing employment land that was suitable and available to meet the need identified. The results of the review are set out in the following table. The need identified is less than the indicative requirement within the RSS Phase Two Revision and past trends. However, this figure takes account of the recent economic downturn in its future projections and is considered to be a more robust figure.

Table 5.1: The amount of employment land needed up to 2026 compared against existing supply

Land Type

Need

Supply

Shortfall/Surplus

Offices/Hi-Tech Research & Development/Light Manufacturing

56.93ha

20.25ha

-36.68ha

Factories/Manufacturing

12.15ha

21.71ha

+9.56ha

Warehousing/Distribution

8.49ha

17.61ha

+9.12ha

Total

77.56ha

59.57ha

-18ha

5.13 This table reveals a total shortfall of 18ha. In addition to the above provision for Warwick District, there is the potential for there to be insufficient land within Coventry to meet its employment land requirements over the period to 2026. In those circumstances, emerging regional policy requires that additional land may need to be found outside its boundary within Warwick District, Nuneaton & Bedworth or Rugby to meet any shortfall. However, Coventry's Core Strategy has only allocated land for its rolling five year supply (82ha) at this stage as it does not wish to allocate larger areas of land which may remain undeveloped for a substantial period. This supply will be regularly monitored by the City Council and further land will be released as it is needed. It is not yet known therefore whether any employment land will need to be identified within Warwick District to meet any shortfall in meeting Coventry's requirements.

5.14 In meeting all of these requirements, regional policy gives priority to the recycling of brownfield land and to the protection of existing land and premises.

What are the options?

5.15 The options for the Core Strategy in terms of meeting the employment needs of a growing population relate to the better use of existing available employment land supply and the identification of new supply. In terms of the existing employment land supply, there is a shortfall in land for offices/hi-tech research (see above table). However, the Employment Land Review considered that some of the surplus land supply identified for factories and warehousing would also be suitable for office/hi-tech research uses, and therefore one option for the Core Strategy would be to focus more of the existing supply specifically towards meeting the needs for offices/hi-tech research.

5.16 However, re-distribution of the existing supply will not be sufficient to meet the identified need for additional employment land to 2026. It is not therefore considered an option for the Core Strategy to re-distribute any of the existing employment land supply to other non-employment uses, unless there are particular site specific reasons why this would be appropriate. The only site identified at this stage where such reasons may exist is the land at Station Approach, Leamington where a re-allocation to residential uses is supported for the reasons set out in the Station Area Planning & Development Brief10. This site equates to 2.1ha and therefore the Core Strategy would need to demonstrate additional sites would be available for approximately 20ha of employment land.

5.17 The emerging RSS Phase Two Revision recognises that the University of Warwick has a role in delivering employment growth in Warwick District and allows for 50% of their expansion to be counted towards the employment land supply. The University has submitted its expansion plans to 2018 which include employment related development which equates to approximately 12.5ha of land within Warwick District11. It is an option for the Core Strategy to take account of this contribution as part of its employment land supply to meet future needs to 2026. Furthermore, the Core Strategy could also support the further development of the University by removing the built-up area of the existing campus from the Green Belt and identifying this as a strategic site for development. The broad area of the site is shown on the plan attached as Appendix Six. The Council would, however, need to demonstrate exceptional circumstances in order to remove land from the Green Belt.

5.18 In terms of other options to meet this need, priority should be given to previously developed land first. Two small previously developed land options are the redevelopment of the former Ford Foundry, Leamington and the former IBM Car Park, Birmingham Road, Warwick (see plans attached at Appendix 5.2 and 5.3). These are not strategic sites for inclusion in the Core Strategy but both are currently vacant employment land and available for redevelopment. The Council has adopted a Planning & Development brief for the former Ford Foundry area which supports an employment-led mixed use redevelopment of this site, including offices, residential apartments, and ancillary retail and leisure uses12.

5.19 Another (in part) previously developed option put forward for the Core Strategy is to the east of Stratford Road, Warwick (see plan attached at Appendix One). This land is part agricultural land and part operational land currently in use by Severn Trent and a Grounds Maintenance Contractor. The total area of this site equates to 14ha and could represent an expansion of the Tournament Fields Employment Area to the west of Stratford Road. The site is, however, in part constrained by flooding, odour issues from the adjoining sewage treatment works and the proximity of Warwick Castle Park, and is therefore not considered a suitable option to be taken forward as a preferred option.

5.20 The remaining options are on greenfield sites (including Green Belt sites) as part of strategic mixed use urban extensions to the existing towns put forward by developers/landowners through the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment. These sites are:

  • Land west of Europa Way, Warwick (possible extension to the Warwick Technology Park);

  • Land at Lower Heathcote Farm, south of Harbury Lane, Warwick (possible concentration of employment uses with the Warwick Gates Employment Allocation to the north);

  • Land north of Milverton, Leamington (possible concentration of employment uses around Blackdown); and,

  • (adjacent to the A46 junction); and,

  • Land south of Green Lane, Kings Hill, Finham.

5.21 Plans showing these sites/locations can be found at Appendix Three and Four. The amount of available land from these options would depend upon their future masterplanning, however, together it is expected they could accommodate sufficient land to meet the identified need of approximately 20ha. It should be noted that land north of Milverton, at Thickthorn and south of Green Lane are all within the Green Belt. The Council would need to demonstrate exceptional circumstances in order to remove this land from the Green Belt.

Feedback - Options for Employment Locations
View Comments (1319) Do you agree that the Council has identified all reasonable options for the location of new employment land?
Please explain your response when answering this question.

What is our Preferred Option for the location of new employment land?

5.22 The choice of preferred option from the options above has been informed by the following:

  • the Spatial Vision and Strategy (Section 3) and its distribution of the majority of growth to the south of the urban area of Warwick/Leamington/Whitnash, with a lesser amount of growth to Kenilworth recognising its more limited employment opportunities and infrastructure. This results in the discounting of the 'option' at land north of Milverton;
  • the Employment Land Review which identifies the need to protect existing suitable employment land supply in order to meet future requirements, unless particular site specific reasons exist;
  • the evidence, including the responses to the "Options for Growth" consultation; and,
  • the Sustainability Appraisal and its assessment of each site against the sustainability objectives. This results in the discounting of the 'option' at land east of Stratford Road, Warwick.

5.23 The Preferred Option for the Core Strategy in meeting the employment land needs to 2026 is to:

  • protect existing employment areas;
  • re-distribute existing available land from factories and warehousing to offices/hi-technology development in order to better target available land supply;
  • to support recycling of available previously developed sites for employment uses;
  • to take account of the expansion plans of the University of Warwick in the employment land supply; and,
  • to allocate an proportion of the following strategic sites for employment uses:
    • Land west of Europa Way, Warwick;
    • Land at Lower Heathcote Farm, south of Harbury Lane, Warwick;
    • Land at Thickthorn, between Kenilworth and the A46; and,
    • If required to meet Coventry's employment land requirements, land south of Green Lane, Kings Hill, Finham.

5.24 These strategic sites/locations are shown on the maps attached at Appendix Five and Six.

Feedback - Preferred Employment Locations
Do you support or object to the following preferred locations for new employment land?
Please explain your response when answering these questions.
  1. View Comments (113) Land at Lower Heathcote Farm, south of Harbury Lane
  2. View Comments (107) Land west of Europa Way, Warwick
  3. View Comments (122) Land at Thickthorn, Kenilworth
  4. View Comments (137) Land at Kings Hill, south of Green Lane, Finham


10 The Station Area Brief is available on the Council's website

11 The Employment Land Review explains how this figure has been calculated

12The Station Area Brief is available on the Council's website

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