Cheltenham Plan Pre-Submission consultation

Pre-Submission Cheltenham Plan

3 Employment

CONTEXT

3.1 The Cheltenham Plan is putting forward a strategy which is intended to better manage the use of employment land as part of a coordinated approach with the Joint Core Strategy (JCS) to meet ambitious aspirations for growth, open up opportunities for large companies, SMEs and business start-ups, and create a vibrant, competitive economy. Our ambition is to create an environment that supports economic growth and flexibility within the local economy, whilst also recognising the strategic role Cheltenham plays in the wider economy of Gloucestershire and regionally.

3.2 In land use terms, three primary strands have emerged from the key issues identified at the Cheltenham Plan Issues and Options Stage in 2015 which took account of consultation on the Local Plan Scoping Report in 2013, the findings of the Economic Strategy in 2015, and more recent engagement with local business leaders. These are:

  • the need to appropriately manage the use of land and premises 
  • the need to maximise the opportunities presented by the cyber security industry
  • support for business start-ups and SMEs

3.3 These are considered further below, with further evidence and supporting information included in the Employment Background Paper published separately.

POLICY EM1: SAFEGUARDING KEY EXISTING EMPLOYMENT LAND AND BUILDINGS


The following sites, which are shown on the Cheltenham Plan Proposals Map, have been identified as containing key employment land to be safeguarded for employment purposes:

1. Runnings Road (Kingsditch Trading Estate, Block 1 and Blocks 5-7)

2. Gloucester Road, Benhall (GCHQ)

3. Jessop Avenue / St. James Square

4. New Barn Lane (UCAS)

5. Tewkesbury Road (Block 1)

6. Cheltenham Trade Park

7. Hatherley Lane (The Reddings)

Development proposals for a change of use of land and buildings currently or last in employment use (Note 1) on key existing employment sites will not be permitted except where:

a) The proposed use is Sui Generis but exhibits characteristics of traditional B1, B2 or B8 employment uses (Note 2); or

b) The proposed use provides new high-skilled jobs such as those associated with knowledge-based service and technology industries.

New employment allocations made under Policy EM3 of the Cheltenham Local Plan and new strategic employment allocations made as part of the Gloucester, Cheltenham and Tewkesbury Joint Core Strategy, namely, Land at West Cheltenham and Land at North West Cheltenham, will also be safeguarded by Policy EM1 on completion of development.

This policy contributes towards achieving the Cheltenham Plan Vision: Theme B - objectives a, b and e.

Note 1: Employment use means B class employment uses together with those Sui Generis uses that exhibit characteristics of traditional B1, B2 and B8 uses such as car sales, a builder’s yard, or a vehicle or tool hire business. The list is not exhaustive.

Note 2: Sui Generis uses which may require an employment location are the same as those listed at Note 1, although the list is not exhaustive.

KEY EMPLOYMENT LAND

3.4 The Council will seek to ensure that the best, most versatile employment land defined as Key Employment Land on the Local Plan Proposals Map will remain available for B1, B2 and B8 employment uses and not eroded for other uses.

3.5 These sites are recognised as having the potential to make a significant contribution to the aim of delivering new jobs and increasing gross-value-added (GVA) / productivity in Cheltenham over the Plan Period and would assist in meeting the aspirations for growth set out in the Strategic Economic Plan (SEP). The list of sites is included in Policy EM1.

3.6 A site’s designation as a key site is based on one or more of a variety of factors and, to this end, identified sites can exhibit a range of differing characteristics. The following have considered first and foremost:

  • Whether the character of the site is predominantly traditional employment-based (use classes B1/B2/B8);
  • The location of the site in terms of its strategic and local accessibility;
  • Access to the site by public transport, walking and cycling and the site’s ability to improve local transport / connectivity;
  • The proximity of community facilities to help support the workforce;
  • The size of the site and its capacity for expansion in future;
  • Whether there is currently a limited supply of such premises / accommodation across the Borough;
  • Whether there is market demand / requirements for such locations;
  • The lack of constraints (physical or otherwise) to unhindered continued use or future expansion.

3.7 By identifying key sites in this way, it is intended that the Cheltenham Plan will provide a more refined and focussed approach to facilitating and enabling economic growth than before, and that by protecting such sites, the Plan will help ensure a more balanced economic strategy which simultaneously helps to capitalise on key areas such as the recent rapid growth in demand for serviced office accommodation.

3.8 To not follow such an approach would risk further loss of high-quality business and enterprise parks and premium grade offices and would delay the Plan’s ability to meet the needs of existing business and attract new businesses to the area. The resulting lack of employment space in sustainable locations could result in increased car use as businesses are forced to locate outside the town, thus negatively affecting the local economy.

SPATIAL CHARACTERISTICS

3.9 It will be noted that the distribution pattern of key employment sites possesses a strong spatial dimension whereby there is a greater concentration of sites towards the west of Cheltenham, particularly along the A4019 and the A40. The area benefits from very good strategic access, being close to the M5 motorway and with good connections to Junctions 10 and 11. Whilst Junction 10 is still constrained through being two-way rather than four-way, sites to the west of Cheltenham would stand to benefit further should investment be forthcoming to facilitate an all-movements junction in future. The Council is committed to keep up the pressure of lobbying to influence this and is working closely with key partners on achieving a satisfactory outcome, namely to get Junction 10 included on the post-2020 Roads Investment Strategy. The economic strategy as set out in this Plan will support that activity. Upgrading the junction will provide significant economic growth opportunities by unlocking the potential of additional land.

3.10 The strategic position of these sites, their good accessibility, and their attractiveness to the market have all been influential in determining their identification as containing key employment land. The resulting spatial dimension dovetails with the vision and associated land-use strategy of the JCS whereby there is a clear preference for capitalising on development opportunities in the west through strategic land allocations in proximity to appropriate infrastructure, employers offering high-value jobs and services, and the potential for significant inward investment.

3.11 On Key Employment Land, a change of use will be permitted for Sui Generis uses exhibiting characteristics of traditional employment uses (B1, B2, B8) or for uses that provide new, highly skilled jobs or high-value-added activities such as research and education.

3.12 The above policy reflects the approach to safeguarding key existing employment land in Cheltenham. In addition to the existing employment sites identified, it is intended that key employment land includes a small number of new employment allocations being made under Policy EM3 of the Cheltenham Plan, together with those strategic employment allocations at West Cheltenham and North West Cheltenham being made as part of the JCS when any relevant development at either of those locations is completed.

POLICY EM2: SAFEGUARDING NON-DESIGNATED EXISTING EMPLOYMENT LAND AND BUILDINGS


Development proposals for a change of use of land and buildings currently or last in employment use (Note 1) will only be permitted where:

a) buildings were constructed and first occupied for residential use;

or

b) the loss of the site to other uses does not have a detrimental impact on the continuing operation of existing businesses in the vicinity (Note 2) and;

i. The proposed use is job-generating (Note 3) with any loss of existing provision being offset by a net gain in the quality (Note 4) and / or the number of jobs provided on the site; or

ii. Development of the site will ensure the relocation of an existing firm to a more suitable location within the Borough (Note 5); or

iii. There has been a sustained and long-term absence of economic activity on the land with no reasonable prospect of the land being used for employment (Note 6);

or

c) The applicant for planning permission can demonstrate that employment use creates unacceptable environmental or traffic problems which cannot be satisfactorily resolved.

Proposals for the redevelopment of non-designated employment sites will need to consider matters of viability in demonstrating adherence to the following sequential approach in order of preference:

1) Traditional B class employment-based redevelopment

2) Job-generating redevelopment (Note 3)

3) Mixed-use redevelopment including traditional B class employment uses

4) Mixed-use redevelopment including job-generating uses (Note 3)

5) Non-employment redevelopment

This policy contributes towards achieving the Cheltenham Plan Vision: Theme B - objectives a, b and e.

Note 1: Employment use means B class employment uses together with those Sui Generis uses that exhibit characteristics of traditional B1, B2 and B8 uses such as car sales, a builder’s yard, or a vehicle or tool hire business. The list is not exhaustive.

Note 2: ‘In the vicinity’ refers to adjacent business land and property; and /or business land and property within the same business site or estate; and /or business land and property within the wider neighbourhood. Each case will be considered on the basis of its particular locational characteristics with the overall aim being to maintain and enhance the Borough’s employment offer.

Note 3: Job-generating uses include retail, leisure facilities, education, health services, residential care, and tourism. This list is not exhaustive and other uses may also be relevant. Proposals for retail uses will also need to comply with the sequential test and the Plan’s retail policies. The assessment of whether or not a development is ‘job-generating’ will not normally include jobs solely related to the construction phase of development.

Note 4: Quality jobs may include knowledge-based service and technology jobs such as cyber security and ICT / digital industries; manufacturing and engineering; jobs in professional services such as insurance; and visitor economy jobs that help increase spend in Cheltenham. This list is not exhaustive and other uses may also be relevant.

Note 5: Evidence will be required to demonstrate why the existing site is unsuitable for the current use, why the alternative site is more suitable, and why other uses are considered necessary in order to facilitate the relocation of the current user elsewhere within the Borough.

Note 6: Evidence will be required to demonstrate the lack of demand and consider the need for employment land currently or in future. At the heart of the criterion is the need to undertake an active advertising and marketing campaign that has been sustained over an appropriate period of time and has had regard to market characteristics. The amount of time that a campaign should be carried out is likely to vary depending on the scale of the redevelopment proposed and the amount of employment land that will potentially be lost. A period of not less than one year provides a reasonable benchmark.

EMPLOYMENT OUTSIDE OF KEY EXISTING EMPLOYMENT SITES

3.13 Land and purpose-built premises currently or last in employment use but not identified as Key Existing Employment Sites will also be safeguarded for a range of employment and job-generating uses such as offices, industrial, warehousing, leisure, education, research, health services, and tourism facilities. The list is not exhaustive and where an applicant can demonstrate another use is job-generating, this will be assessed on its own individual merits.

3.14 Where the use falls outside B1/B2/B8, the proposed job-generating use should be the primary activity and proposals will need to demonstrate how the redevelopment contributes to net increase in jobs available or adds value to the local economy. Proposals for retail will need to comply with relevant retail policies.

3.15 A sequential approach is taken to the redevelopment of non-designated employment sites. Re-development of the site for non-employment development will only be allowed if it can be demonstrated that, firstly, employment or job-generating based redevelopment, and secondly, mixed-use development generating some employment is not viable.

3.16 Exceptions to the policy may be permitted where continuation of the existing use is undesirable on traffic, amenity or environmental grounds, or there is a demonstrable lack of demand for employment use, currently or in future.

3.17 The above policy reflects the approach to safeguarding non-designated employment sites in Cheltenham.

POLICY EM3: NEW EMPLOYMENT ALLOCATIONS


The following sites, which are shown on the Cheltenham Plan Proposals Map, have been identified as locations for new employment development and are delineated on Plans E1 – E4 below. The red lines on Plans E1 – E4 mark the boundaries of the allocations and are separately and collectively part of this policy.

a) Land south of Jessop Avenue, Town Centre (E1)

b) Land south of Hatherley Lane, The Reddings (E2)

c) Land north-west of Grovefield Way, The Reddings (E3)

d) Land at Chelt Walk, Town Centre (E4)

Proposals for traditional B class employment uses or Sui Generis uses that exhibit the characteristics of traditional B class employment will be supported at these locations subject to being in accord with other relevant policies embodied within this Plan.

The contents of Policy EM3 reflect the evidence bases of the Gloucester, Cheltenham and Tewkesbury Joint Core Strategy and the Cheltenham Plan.

This policy contributes towards achieving the Cheltenham Plan Vision: Theme B - objectives a, b and e.

NEW EMPLOYMENT DEVELOPMENT

3.18 Though the emphasis of the Cheltenham Plan’s employment strategy is to safeguard relevant sites and premises from inappropriate changes of use, the Plan is also making a small number of employment allocations within the Principal Urban Area. In this way, it is intended to provide further certainty as to where traditional B class employment activities will be concentrated whilst also providing a greater degree of choice and flexibility to the market. Online maps of these allocations can be found here: https://www.cheltenham.gov.uk/downloads/download/1541/cheltenham_plan_-_new_employment_allocations

3.19 Each of these employment allocations is considered to be a key employment site and upon completion of built development will be safeguarded from inappropriate changes of use by Policy EM1. It is also intended that land within Cheltenham Borough that is subject to the strategic employment allocations made through the adopted JCS, namely, land at West Cheltenham and land at North West Cheltenham will be safeguarded by Policy EM1 on completion of any relevant development.

JESSOP AVENUE (E1)

3.20 The site measures approximately 0.34 ha and comprises a flat parcel of brownfield land located to the south of Jessop Avenue on the western edge of Cheltenham Town Centre. Planning permission for the erection of a six-storey B1 office development was granted in October 2016 with the development currently under construction.

HATHERLEY LANE (E2)

3.21 The site is a flat parcel of land located to the south of Hatherley Lane, The Reddings on the western periphery of Cheltenham. It lies immediately south of the existing Pure Offices serviced business accommodation and is extremely well connected to the strategic highway network via the A40 and J11 of the M5. Measuring approximately 0.86 ha, the allocation offers an ideal opportunity for the expansion of contemporary business activities within a modern business park environment. The site, which can be categorised as brownfield land, has previously been used for employment purposes.

GROVEFIELD WAY (E3)

3.22 The site occupies a flat parcel of land to the north-west of Grovefield Way, The Reddings on the western periphery of Cheltenham. It lies immediately west of the Gloucestershire County Council Park & Ride facility at Arle Court and is extremely well connected to the strategic highway network along the A40 and to J11 of the M5. Measuring approximately 6.4ha, the allocation provides an opportunity for the establishment of a modern business environment at an important gateway location. The site can be categorised as greenfield and currently benefits from an extant planning consent for B1 employment uses. The Principal Urban Area is being amended to accommodate this allocation and part of the site already houses a flagship car dealership.

CHELT WALK (E4)

3.23 The site is located on flat land at the western edge of Cheltenham Town Centre and measures approximately 0.68 ha. It is currently used as a pay and display car park and therefore constitutes brownfield land. As the site and surrounding land is located within Flood Zones 2 and 3, appropriate design will need to mitigate any potential impacts, for example, by utilising lower floors for car parking. The land is considered to be a prime employment site capable of accommodating a modern office development, although it is recognised that a small element of residential may potentially be possible as part of a successful scheme and may help knit the development with the varied surrounding land uses.

3.24 The development or change of use of land for new employment uses at locations not specifically covered by the Cheltenham Plan will be permitted where the proposals accord with Policies SD1 and SD2 of the JCS.

POLICY EM4: EMPLOYMENT SKILLS PLANS


For major indoor commercial development of 1,000 sq. m or more, applicants for planning permission will be required to submit an Employment Skills Plan (ESP) which identifies opportunities for the employment and skills development of local people through the implementation of the development proposal.

This policy contributes towards achieving the Cheltenham Plan Vision: Theme B - objectives a, b, e and g.

EMPLOYMENT SKILLS PLANS

3.25 In the long term, it is not socially or environmentally sustainable for people to travel long distances to reach work. In Cheltenham, the Council considers there is a need to better match the jobs available in the local area with the skills present in the local workforce. Nurturing our environment to attract and retain talent is critical, especially in the light of Brexit and the UK losing ranks on the list of the world’s major economies.

3.26 In order for local people to secure jobs in the local labour market, it is necessary for them to attain appropriate education and skills to meet the needs of local employers. In turn, local employers need to provide opportunities to suitably qualified people from the local area whilst also attracting a highly skilled workforce.

3.27 The above policy aims to facilitate a more balanced relationship between labour supply and demand in Cheltenham and to align these two key elements of sustainable economic policy more effectively. It is designed to complement key themes of the Strategic Economic Plan for Gloucestershire (2014) to support skills delivery according to local priorities and to ensure there is a direct correlation between skills supply and demand.

3.28 The Council will expect an Employment Skills Plan (ESP) to be submitted as part of all relevant planning proposals. The ESP should address priorities identified and agreed at an early stage through liaison with the Council itself and local employment and skills agencies. It is anticipated the ESP will contain targets which are in conformity with industry standard benchmarks for the outcomes expected from the particular size and type of construction proposed. Targets will likely relate to the jobs created at the construction phase of development as well as the jobs created thereafter.

3.29 As the Government defines major commercial development as being 1,000 sq. m of floorspace, the threshold set out in Policy EM4 reflects this definition.

POLICY EM5: PROMOTING THE CYBER-SECURITY SECTOR


In order to further develop and enhance Cheltenham’s position as a premier location for cyber security, innovation and business in the UK, development proposals for businesses that support cyber security activities will be favoured subject to the proposal being appropriate to the location concerned and being in accord with other relevant policies embodied within this Plan.

This policy contributes towards achieving the Cheltenham Plan Vision: Theme B - objectives a, b, e and g.

MAXIMISING OPPORTUNITIES PRESENTED BY THE CYBER SECURITY INDUSTRY

3.30 Public and private sector cyber security activities are significant for Cheltenham and present unique opportunities in terms of high value jobs and activities.

3.31 The area is recognised as a growing centre in the UK for research, development and commercialisation of cyber security products and services. The Council, supported by Government departments including the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and the Department of International Trade (DIT), recognises there are real opportunities from expanding the cyber security sector with a focus on a new cyber business park, but also in any spin-off or associated ICT, digital and technology activities that may have a complementary use for the skills, specialisms and market contacts of the sector.

3.32 The planning system has a role to play in helping to nurture and support this potential and the Cheltenham Plan includes a policy that is designed to look favourably on businesses wishing to locate or develop within the Borough. The policy represents a form of intervention in the market to encourage those uses that have an essential need to locate close to establishments such as GCHQ and represents a step forward from previous employment policy in that it should help focus Cheltenham’s economy towards a specialist sector and therefore help achieve aspirations for GVA growth and delivery of the Gloucestershire SEP.

3.33 The policy is broad in its approach and does not set out to specifically allocate individual sites and premises; to do so may inadvertently prejudice other employment uses and may prevent existing, ageing, and sub-standard premises from being redeveloped. Rather, the approach is to support a growing high-technology global industry to locate to the town and to help brand Cheltenham as a premier location for cyber-security innovation and business in the UK and to help provide a physical identity. Cheltenham is emerging as a modern, forward-thinking town with a good quality of life and exciting offers for a mobile and highly skilled workforce reflecting the demands of an innovative sector such as cyber-security.

3.34 The success of any cyber-security initiative will require coordinated action between the Council, property developers and other sectors of the business community. However, through the above policy, the Cheltenham Plan aims to move the initiative forward by being one of the primary facilitators of change.

POLICY EM6: BUSINESS START-UPS AND SMALL / MEDIUM-SIZED ENTERPRISES


Development proposals that facilitate new business start-ups and the expansion of existing small and medium-sized enterprises will be supported subject to the proposal being appropriate to the location concerned and being in accord with other relevant policies embodied within the Cheltenham Plan.

This policy contributes towards achieving the Cheltenham Plan Vision: Theme B - objectives a, b and e.

BUSINESS START-UPS AND SMALL / MEDIUM-SIZED ENTERPRISES

3.35 Evidence compiled as part of the background work to the Cheltenham Plan largely reflects the results of previous economic / site studies undertaken in the Borough over the last 10 years. Together, they have presented a consistent view on the existing portfolio of sites and premises, re-iterating market strengths but also highlighting key factors that need to be addressed. The main issues identified by the reports were outlined at Preferred Options stage and these include acknowledgment of the following:

  • there is limited business start-up space available, particularly serviced and supported space for incubator or innovation development;
  • there is a lack of intermediate-type accommodation to help small business grow;
  • there are a number of important businesses on single occupier sites with constraints to the potential expansion of those businesses at that location.

3.36 A recent analysis of ONS business failure statistics from across the UK (Savoy Steward 2017) suggested that Cheltenham has a high proportion of business failures after one year (87%). Whilst the reasons for such failures are not made entirely clear and the statistics include mergers and takeovers, the Council and its partners are working to address the matter through increased business support and the provision of a wider range of more accessible advice, guidance and networks.

3.37 In land use policy terms, the Council is introducing new planning policy through the Cheltenham Plan to provide a suitably robust framework to help steer the way in which existing employment land and premises are managed. Policies EM1 and EM2 have been formulated to ensure that changes away from job-generating uses are only allowed in certain circumstances. Policy EM3 makes several new employment allocations, the first in the Borough for many years.

3.38 In addition, Policy EM6 is being introduced to provide ‘in principle’ support for new business start-ups and the graduation of existing small businesses to intermediate and medium-sized enterprises. Some existing employment sites, for example, Tewkesbury Road (Neptune Business Centre and Space Business Centre), already contain a flexible range of unit sizes including start-up and small business accommodation along with bespoke packages to support other occupiers’ requirements, all housed in serviced accommodation.

3.39 Subject to compliance with other relevant policies in the Cheltenham Plan, the Council will support the provision of further, similar accommodation as a means of helping to address the issue of business failures.

TOURISM

3.40 Tourism has been an integral part of Cheltenham’s economy since its development as a regency spa in the second half of the 18th Century. Indeed, tourism assists in the retention and restoration of the Regency heritage of the town today and provides important employment opportunities for the local workforce.

3.41 A review of Cheltenham’s tourism strategy is currently underway and the Council will continue to support an enhanced role for tourism in driving the Borough’s economy. Given the location of Cheltenham on the edge of the Cotswolds, it is likely that future approaches will aim to capitalise on the town’s role as a gateway to the Cotswolds as well as being a leisure and tourist destination in its own right.

3.42 To facilitate increased visitor numbers and greater expenditure in the tourism sector, collective marketing with neighbouring Cotswold authorities is being considered. Any land use implications arising from Cheltenham’s emerging tourism strategy will be supported subject to conformity with the wider policy framework provided by the Cheltenham Plan and JCS, in particular, the need for sustainable development.