Site Allocations Plan March 2016


Economic development is a high priority for North Somerset as it has suffered from low levels of economic activity in recent years relative to high levels of residential development. This has contributed to high levels of out-commuting, and unsustainable development patterns and a key objective of the Core Strategy is to address this imbalance.

The Junction 21 Enterprise Area has been established as a mechanism to stimulate economic growth in Weston-super-Mare, increasing investment in the area and the creation of new employment and enterprise. The area centres on an area subject to significant change encompassing the Weston Villages development, and sites around Junction 21 of the M5 motorway.

Planning has a key role in facilitating economic growth both in terms of the development strategy for this area as identified through the various planning documents and in terms of any additional measures that can be utilised including the use of Local Development Orders.

The area forms one of a number of Enterprise Areas established across the West of England and recognised by the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) as priority areas for investment and business growth.

There are existing sites allocated within this area for business use and sites have been granted planning permission primarily at the Weston Villages for business development. A revised set of land use allocations is proposed through this plan updating the employment allocations.  These sites form the main planned business areas within the Enterprise Area where business growth will be located.

The delivery of the ambitions at the J21 area is related to the wider development strategy in the town to secure employment-led growth where new housing will be provided in tandem with employment development. Significant investment has been made and is planned to enable employment site delivery.

Requirements for allocated land

An Economic Development Needs Assessment (EDNA) has been prepared in 2015 to identify the need for economic land across the wider Functional Economic Market Area (FEMA) covering the West of England. A breakdown of need was also provided for each of the constituent authorities including North Somerset.  This identified land requirements for the period 2016 to 2036 thereby including the 10 years of the Site Allocations Plan.

This updates earlier work the Council commissioned to ascertain economic growth to inform the preparation of the Core Strategy and indicates a marginally increased growth rate and resulting demand for land.

The land supply provided in the Site Allocations Plan is sufficient to meet the requirements of the Core Strategy to achieve at least 10,100 jobs to 2026 taking into account that a significant proportion of these will already have been achieved between 2006 and 2015. The land supply required to meet the growth rates set out in the EDNA are not yet known and will be addressed at a strategic level through the Joint Spatial Plan currently in preparation.  This will be required to address the dynamics across the FEMA taking into consideration options for meeting business growth and the implications of different strategies.  Pending that more strategic debate, and the following allocation of land to meet the JSP economic requirements, it is considered prudent in the Site Allocations Plan to ensure there is broadly sufficient land allocated in the interim period to ensure that the forecast of economic growth is not constrained by a shortage of land.

Allocated sites

The allocations are mostly carried forward from the previous Replacement Local Plan (2007) amended to take into account any completed parts or further information. This has been informed by a review of the allocations that has considered the suitability of the sites for ongoing allocation in the Development Plan. A background evidence paper (Review of Employment Allocations) provides a qualitative assessment of the extant NSRLP employment allocations in order to help determine a realistic supply of potential employment land from this source and to inform decisions regarding their future allocation in the Sites Allocations Plan.

Each site has been assessed taking into account a range of factors to gain a broad understanding of the site characteristics and scope for future delivery. A broad guide to this assessment is whether, in line with the National Planning Policy Framework, the site has a ‘reasonable prospect’ of being delivered for its intended use. Each site is scored and ranked to provide a comparison across the range of sites.

Factors that have been assessed to determine the suitability of each employment allocation are:

  • Proximity to urban areas (sequential approach)
  • Site visibility
  • Market attractiveness
  • Strategic access
  • Proximity to train station and or bus connections
  • Development and environmental constraints
  • Compatibility with adjoining uses

New allocations have been proposed including at Weston Villages to reflect the emerging development proposal there. Similar in principle to the previous policy approach there will be a presumption of protection over these sites by virtue of their allocation and only when the criteria are satisfactorily addressed will it be justified to develop the site for alternative uses.

The Core Strategy set out the aspiration to create more sustainable places, both existing and new, by increasing the range of jobs and local prosperity in North Somerset. At the same time the influence of Bristol must be recognised as a major economic centre, and the choice, and mobility of residents and the labour force within the West of England sub-region. So whilst North Somerset operates in the context of a wider functional economic market characterised by clear and long established commuting patterns, there is a need to ensure development in North Somerset is sustainable and that residents have access to a range of local employment, and local businesses have opportunities to set-up, and expand whilst protecting the valued natural environment.

Employment development is directed to the main areas of population growth linking to the underlying strategy of aligning jobs with homes in key areas. This has the potential to reduce the levels of out-commuting and increase self-containment bringing additional spin-off benefits including reducing carbon emissions from dispersed development due to increased car use.

This is particularly relevant at Weston where the strategic policy approach has for many years sought to achieve a greater alignment between jobs and homes. The Core Strategy and other plans seek to reinforce this principle through ensuring that new housing is provided in step with job growth, that the existing backlog is addressed over the plan period and key under-represented sectors (particularly offices) are supported.

Policy SA 4 below provides a schedule of proposed employment sites which should be reserved exclusively for B1, B2 and B8 use.

The Council will consider providing additional detail relating to the deliverability of the allocated employment land supply. It is clear that not all supply is equal and readily deliverable and therefore the overall supply is not always a reasonable indicator when considering the scale of land supply available for business needs.  Sites may require significant investment to unlock and may have a long lead-in time particularly if linked to a wider regeneration strategy in an area.

POLICY SA 4: Employment Allocations

Land in Schedule 2 is allocated for new business development (B1, B2 and B8 use). Proposals for non B use classes on these sites will only be permitted if:

  • they are ancillary to the main B use
  • they are small scale, making up no more than 15% of the site area overall and provide a supporting service for the employment uses or employees e.g. crèche, gym café etc
  • their development would not lead to the site becoming unsuitable for the intended employment uses

In cases where the above criteria are not met:

  • it can be demonstrated that the planned B Class use is not suitable and that there is no realistic prospect of the site coming forward for its planned use,
  • the range and quality of land available to meet future business needs is not adversely impacted.