Why we need to provide for employment
3b.1 Housing a growing population needs to be balanced with providing sufficient jobs for existing and new residents, and ensuring there is enough land to accommodate these jobs. Having land of the right type and in the right places also supports South Gloucestershire to continue having a strong, responsive and competitive economy, ensure people have access to employment opportunities close to where they live, to manage the impacts of climate change and assist in meeting a zero-carbon ambition.
3b.2 Our new local plan is an opportunity to review land currently safeguarded for employment. We have strong performing locations contributing to the West of England, and the National, economy. Aztec West within our Communities of the North Fringe of Bristol Urban Area generates the second highest GVA (Gross Value Added – a key measure of economic performance) in the West of England. Maintaining strong economic performance will only be achieved by having designated areas where land is safeguarded for employment uses.
3b.3 We are facing difficult challenges including employment imbalance across the district. The Communities of the East Fringe of Bristol Urban Area, unlike Severnside and the North Fringe of Bristol, does not have clear employment specialism, and suffers a long-term problem of having fewer jobs than working residents*. Since the Core Strategy was adopted, further increases in homes and losses of safeguarded employment land in the area have intensified this, with new employment at the Bristol and Bath Science Park in Emersons Green not aligning with the historic uses of older sites lost. As a result, the economy in the East Fringe of Bristol is much weaker than other parts of South Gloucestershire. Remaining safeguarded employment areas, some Victorian, need investment to modernise and adapt to modern business needs, but currently provide low-cost premises for smaller businesses and as such remain a valuable resource. (*Analysis of 2021 census data being prepared for updated local jobs/resident worker figures.)
3b.4 The opposite is true in the North Fringe of Bristol, which has a strong economy, drawing commuters from other parts of South Gloucestershire, Bristol and other authorities. There are more jobs than working residents, despite significant new housing growth planned through the Core Strategy. This is expected however as the area is a strategic employment location for the West of England, including being a hub for aerospace and advanced engineering sectors.
3b.5 Addressing this employment imbalance and strengthening the economy within the East Fringe of Bristol is a key spatial priority of the New Local Plan, working alongside other Council initiatives such as regeneration projects.
3b.6 There will always be a need for people to travel to jobs that they wish to do, or those that match their skills and experience. Providing more, and a wider range of, jobs locally though can enable people to work closer to home, helping to grow the local economy and make journeys to work shorter and more by walking, wheeling or public transport. This in turn would help address both the cost of living and impacts of climate change.
3b.7 Our safeguarded employment areas face pressure, particularly from speculative planning applications for new housing, where they have been vacant or underused for some time. Often this is due to the existing condition of buildings, the costs of renovating them for use by modern businesses, and to meet energy efficiency standards. These often short-term and sometimes opportunistic approaches result in our limited amount of employment land, with its current and future jobs, being permanently lost.
3b.8 We must instead consider the longer-term strategic role of employment areas, and safeguard land to allow existing businesses to expand and new businesses to establish. For example, not all employment land needs to be premium, high-quality buildings; a wide range of businesses operate across South Gloucestershire, including smaller trades and land/buildings with more industrial appearance. They contribute to the diversity and strength of our economy and are a vital part of our communities.
3b.9 Another issue facing South Gloucestershire is that our employment land provision is over-reliant on 2 main locations: Severnside and the Former Filton Airfield. A range of smaller employment sites are additionally needed across the district to meet the needs of our communities.
3b.10 The new Local Plan is the opportunity to address these challenges as, alongside reviewing our existing employment areas, land can be allocated for new employment areas to allow for additional jobs to be created. This also supports our commitment to delivering mixed and balanced communities and reducing the need to travel through the Local Plan.
3b.11 Planning for new jobs and employment also includes having viable town centres. Section 3c. Planning for town centres covers this in more detail.
How many new jobs we need to plan for
3b.12 We commissioned a Future Economic Needs Assessment to support the new Local Plan. This forecasts (estimates) 25,000 new jobs being needed between 2023 and 2043, or 1,250 per year. This level of jobs aligns with the number of homes we need to plan for as discussed in section 3a: How many and what types of new homes do we need to plan for.
3b.13 These forecast jobs create the following demand for traditional employment sectors to be provided in new sites over the new local plan period:
- 159,000-167,000 sq. m floorspace of office/ research and development (R&D)
- 30 hectares (ha) of land for industrial, and
- 105 ha of land for warehousing and logistics
3b.14 For offices, there is wide range of densities these can be built at depending on the number of storeys and whether they are in or out of town. So floorspace rather than land area is a more accurate way of reporting demand for offices.
3b.15 Undeveloped land within our existing safeguarded employment areas, as well as current planning permissions for employment, provide employment supply to meet that demand as follows:
- 195,000 sq. m floorspace of office/(R&D)
- 57 ha for industrial – of which 41 ha (82%) is at Severnside, and
- 164 ha of land for warehousing and logistics – of which 156 ha (95%) is at Severnside
3b.16 Whilst the technical evidence indicates from demand and supply figures (known as quantitative analysis) that there is sufficient land as supply to meet demand, the evidence also provides an assessment of commercial markets (known as qualitative analysis) to give a more comprehensive view of South Gloucestershire’s economic needs.
3b.17 Particularly within industrial, warehousing and logistics, most of the available land would be in one location, Severnside. Relying on a single location to meet our future employment needs would not be appropriate from a commercial perspective as it provides limited range and choice in the market, nor would it achieve the outcomes we have set for our new Local Plan. These considerations are further explained within our emerging employment strategy section below.
3b.18 Following success of the Bristol and Bath Science Park there is also demand for additional employment which is intrinsically linked to that area, and demand generally for more urban and edge of centre logistics/ strategic distribution which is forecast to continue. More employment is particularly needed within the East Fringe of Bristol to provide for new communities coming forward, and to address the current employment imbalance.
3b.19 For offices/R&D, limited appropriate land is available for new offices should there be more demand in future, including to replace losses of existing offices, as well as there being a shortage – and therefore high demand for – good quality (Grade A) office space. Existing trends for working from home increased following Covid-19, but future ways of working, and what that would require in terms of land or floorspace, are still emerging. So, the new Local Plan should consider additional land being needed for offices, including start-up space as well as flexible and co-working hubs.
3b.20 Rural employment sites also provide for different commercial markets to those of our urban areas, and so further new rural sites would be needed to support these.
3b.21 Similar to housing need, the first year we will record and monitor the building of new employment floorspace allocated in our new Local Plan will be in the monitoring year 1 April 2025 to 31 March 2026. As the new Local Plan will cover a 15 year period, the employment forecasts up to 2043 align with this.
How this need is divided across South Gloucestershire
3b.22 Our employment technical evidence identifies South Gloucestershire having several Functional Economic Marketing Area (FEMA) sub-areas, as shown in Figure 1 below.
3b.23 These are Severnside (and its enterprise area), the North Fringe (including Filton Enterprise area), and the East Fringe (including Emersons Green enterprise area), with clear sub-areas having specific economic strengths, relatively high employment opportunities* and urban character. (*Within the East Fringe this is largely from Emersons Green.)
3b.24 Further sub-areas are Yate and its surrounding areas (including Chipping Sodbury) and Thornbury and North Rural. There is also one large south and east rural sub-area with limited employment, a lot of working from home and out commuting to other areas.
Figure. 1 FEMA Sub-Areas
Source: South Gloucestershire Employment Land Review (January 2022)
Rural economy and employment
3b.25 Rural areas to the north, south and east, including some surrounding areas of Yate, shown in the FEMA diagram above, cover a large area of the district. They include a range of employment activities such as quarrying, farming and agricultural, rural offices, industrial and small-scale storage and distribution uses, as well as Oldbury Power Station.
3b.26 The new Local Plan is an opportunity to grow the rural economy both through supporting larger scale employment areas at the urban edge (such as Severnside and expansion of the Bristol and Bath Science Park at Emersons Green), and allocation of new rural employment areas. This would be taken forward following consideration of the 3 ‘lenses’ discussed in section 6: New strategy ‘lenses‘.
Our emerging employment land strategy
3b.27 Our new Local Plan seeks to address employment imbalances, particularly in the East Fringe of Bristol where lack of local job opportunities is a key issue. We must also be mindful that key employment sectors for South Gloucestershire and the West of England will continue to be the heart of the economy of the North Fringe of Bristol.
3b.28 Reasons for this include proximity to the motorway network, road and rail connections with Bristol, and to other organisations such as the Ministry of Defence and the University of the West of England. So, reducing existing employment land and directing new employment growth away from the North Fringe may only result in these jobs going away from South Gloucestershire, and not to other areas of the district.
3b.29 Although Severnside and the Former Filton Airfield offer large land areas for employment, they do not meet the full range of employment need across South Gloucestershire, and some delivery on these sites may take place beyond the plan period.
3b.30 Severnside is a regional and national distribution location, with large-scale warehousing, for which demand is expected to continue. It however lacks public transport, local facilities and connectivity with residential areas, restricting its suitability for some businesses due to challenges in recruiting skilled staff.
3b.31 Proposals for the Former Filton Airfield have the potential for significant additional employment opportunity, with provision of a new enterprise district and a mixed-use core including high grade offices. This would take many years to develop, and would be unlikely to meet the wider range of employment needs across the district which depends upon factors such as location, size, type and affordability of accommodation.
3b.32 So, whilst the large land areas at Severnside and the Former Filton Airfield serve the needs of some businesses and sectors, we must allocate and safeguard other land to meet our wider employment needs.
3b.33 Aztec West is an existing key employment area which makes a significant contribution to the West of England economy, including high GVA, second only to Bristol city centre. In recent years the attractiveness of out-of-town offices has reduced, but its location near to the M4/M5 motorways, and buffer from nearby residential areas, means it remains a valued area for other employment uses, such as industrial where appropriately zoned to avoid conflict with office and residential uses. Continued safeguarding allows for changes within these traditional employment uses to respond to market demands. We may then consider, through a masterplan or other comprehensive review, targeted flexibility for other uses to specific areas, to ensure Aztec West continues to meet commercial needs, offering both quality of stock and a desirable market location without harmful fragmentation or introducing sensitive uses.
3b.34 As the new Local Plan allows us to allocate new employment areas, this also gives the opportunity to review the future of our existing areas. Primarily, safeguarded employment land is prioritised for traditional employment uses; offices, R&D, industrial, warehousing and logistics. There are opportunities for these uses to become more flexible and adaptable so that they make more efficient use of land, and in doing so provide more and a wider range of jobs. We would look to encourage this provided it does not undermine an employment area’s sector specialism.
3b.35 In specific locations within the North and the East Fringes of Bristol, introducing a wider mix of uses is also a potential option, to improve the number and/or range of jobs that they offer. By considering this as part of the new Local Plan we can ensure that following any employment losses, we would have enough land, in the right places to meet the employment needs of communities and the wider district.
3b.36 Any such changes need to be considered carefully to ensure firstly that the sites are no longer fit for traditional employment purposes, with limited prospect of refurbishing, and secondly that it would provide a better outcome, for example this could be that introducing other uses will provide enough investment in new buildings for employment, and for the right sectors, that it would re-vitalise the area as an employment location.
3b.37 When considering potential allocations for homes and jobs which would connect into the East Fringe of Bristol, section 5: Towards an emerging preferred strategy gives priority to sites that are employment-led, followed by residential-led developments with a substantial employment element. We see this as appropriate to the area’s need given the imbalance between jobs and working residents. Proposals for large numbers of new homes without employment, or those that offer only limited provisions, have not been prioritised, since they would further worsen the imbalance and therefore fail to address a key objective of the new Local Plan. We will need to carefully consider this with our competing priorities to deliver the homes we need to ensure are built and boost the delivery of Affordable Housing.
3b.38 For both existing and new employment we need to make sure that the sectors align with demand from West of England property market, to which we are led by our technical evidence.
3b.39 Yate has significant safeguarded employment areas providing a hub for certain industries, with opportunities to intensify and diversify their employment offer to maximise capacity. Thornbury is supported by local working spaces with potential further employment demand from increased population due to the number of new homes built in recent years. Continued safeguarding of these areas is proposed to ensure they continue to provide employment opportunities for existing and new residents, and that Yate (including its surrounding areas) and Thornbury remain sustainable places to live and work.
3b.40 We are also considering proposals put forward at rural employment sites and hubs, that provide unique and local services and employment opportunities for our rural villages and settlements. So, we propose to continue safeguarding existing rural employment areas and to allocate some new area, where suitable sites are suggested and consulted on through the new Local Plan.
3b.41 Our potential employment land strategy therefore includes continuing to grow our employment offer in the Communities of the North Fringe of Bristol Urban Area, through key sites such as the Former Filton Airfield and Aztec West, addressing imbalance in the communities of the East Fringe of Bristol Urban Area, and continuing to safeguard other existing urban employment areas for their contribution towards South Gloucestershire’s economy. We will also continue to safeguard employment in our market towns Thornbury, Yate and Chipping Sodbury, and across our rural areas.
Safeguarded employment areas
3b.42 Our existing local plan, in the Core Strategy, lists a total of 58 safeguarded employment areas. Since then, 7 of these sites have been either full or partly subject to redevelopment; these are shown in Appendix 1 – Removed Core Strategy safeguarded employment areas (CS12 Sites) including reason for their removal as safeguarded employment areas.
3b.43 We are consulting on 2 safeguarded employment areas; Land at Filton 20 Business Park (Filton), and Bristol Uniforms Site (Staple Hill), as urban option sites. We are also consulting on 2 safeguarded employment areas; Lucas Works (Kingswood) and part of University of West of England, as proposed site allocations. These are shown in Appendix 2 – Urban option sites and proposed site allocations on safeguarded employment areas (potential change to CS12 sites), on our interactive map, and covered in more detail within section 4: Urban areas and market towns.
3b.44 Employment areas from the Core Strategy which we propose to continue safeguarding are shown in Appendix 3 – proposed continued safeguarded employment areas and on our interactive map.
3b.45 We are exploring through consideration of the 3 ‘lenses’ discussed in section 6. New strategy ‘lenses’, potential new employment areas to meet our identified shortfall in employment floorspace. This includes through mixed use, large and smaller sites.
Draft employment policy
3b.46 The Economy and Jobs Draft Policy would replace policies CS11, CS12 and CS13 of the adopted Core Strategy. Find out more and submit your comments.
3b.47 Existing policies PSP26 to PSP30 of the adopted Policies, Sites and Places Plan define our 3 Enterprise Areas and include provisions for storage and distribution, the rural economy, agricultural and horse-related development. We intend to save these policies, so that they will continue to be read alongside the new employment policy until replaced by either a future local plan document or National Development Management Policies.
Read the next section – Planning for town centres.
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