The committee considered the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management’s report detailing a number of matters on the provision of employment land in the local plan and setting out the existing position of employment in the district which was in the region of 78,500 residents of working age, the third lowest proportion of working age people in the UK and 64,000 jobs in East Devon with a ratio of working age people to jobs of 0.82. 41% of East Devon residents had to travel outside the district to work with Exeter being the most popular location to commute.
The Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management referred to a report to the Strategic Planning Committee in September 2018 and asked Members to consider the relevance of those principles for future growth in East Devon to the key objectives detailed in the report.
Principles for future growth in East Devon as discussed in September 2018 included:
· Accommodating growth in locations that would not prejudice the future growth and operation of Exeter Airport
· Ensure adequate employment spaces provided to meet the needs of all types of business in sustainable and accessible locations
· Promote new and emerging high technology industries
· Encourage greater connectivity across the district
· Ensuring high quality broadband infrastructure is incorporated into new development and existing infrastructure
Members were reminded about the key objectives in the current adopted plan which included:
· Improving average income levels
· Diversifying the sectors within the local economy
· Improving local job opportunities
· Reducing the need to travel by car to secure works and jobs
The Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management referred to the economic development needs assessment and advised although it predated the pandemic and brexit and would need updating in due course it was still useful in demonstrating issues, such as the average wage levels and the need for more micro businesses in the district.
The Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management also referred to the employment land study and highlighted a number of key findings relating to the availability of sites which included:
· The willingness of landowners to bring sites forward
· The infrastructure costs
· Viability of sites
Reference was made to paragraph 6.2 on page 132 and Members were asked to consider these key concepts in progressing the new local plan.
Non-Committee Members discussion included:
· Concerns raised about access to properly connected broadband to enable and encourage more people to work from home
· Support was shown that the population was rising in technical competence
· The need to consider what happens to allocated employment sites when employment opportunities do not come forward
· There is a need to encourage people to work from home to reduce carbon emissions and traffic congestion
· Concerns raised about the inward migration of elderly retired people and the need to include something in the local plan that would limit the scale of residential development aimed at that specific age group. In response the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management advised it would be difficult to have a policy specifically limiting care homes and retirees because there was a need for them and suggested having policies that ensure delivery of housing that meets the needs of the communities so that this makes up a greater proportion of the new homes delivered.
Points raised by Committee Members during discussion included:
· Applaud the report as it supports robust opportunities. There is a need to make every town in the district sustainable by creating local jobs and better quality jobs.
· Support for bullet point 3 in paragraph 6.2 on page 132 and support for reason for recommendation.
· It is exciting that our local communities have employment opportunities at Sky Park and Science Park and links with Exeter University to encourage the younger population to live in East Devon to balance the demography.
· The need for self-sustaining towns across East Devon that deliver for the people of East Devon.
· The need to provide the opportunity for live/work units to allow people to work from home or have small workshop units at their home as there is an abundance of need for it which this council does not catered for. In response the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management agreed that the council needs to take a more active role in the delivery of small spaces for micro businesses.
· There are gaps, especially in the east of the district for skills provision and training.
· Concerns raised about the income level in East Devon and the need to increase the average wage.
· Cluster development should not be excluded in our market towns, especially in the coastal and rural areas as we are encouraging a disproportionate number of retirees which means the only jobs left are either in hospitality and tourism or in care and those jobs simply do not pay enough. In response the Chair put a question to committee members to think about the towns which were highly constrained and to consider how to inject employment opportunities into these towns.
· The need to understand the difference between housing development, driven by areas of land and existing housing and business development which can grow within small sites.
· Live/work units make common sense approach.
· The need to facilitate broadband. In response the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management advised it was not a planning issue and was in the hands of Openreach and government investments in infrastructure to facilitate better broadband.
· The need to re-energise our existing employment sites.
· The need to alter the pattern of employment and allow people to work from home to help tackle the environmental crisis.
· Concur with the all the points in paragraph 6.2 emphasising the last bullet point on page 132 for acquiring additional sites for development.
· The need to encourage landlords in larger businesses to think about how they can repurpose their buildings for the future. Partitioning of larger businesses to create smaller spaces to allow new and small businesses to grow.
· The need to look at the entire economy and at the reality of our demography. East Devon has a huge retired population which reflects in our increasing tourist economy and the difficulty that those wages are not high enough to sustain young people.
· A lot or families depend upon the income from care work and from tourism.
· The need to focus on employment right across the district including small and medium enterprises, not just on the west end of Exeter.
· Cycle routes are essential when looking at new developments.
· Clarification sought on the final bullet point in paragraph 6.2 on page 132 about the number of allocated sites owned by the Council. In response the Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management advised he did not have the figures to hand but the report referred to publically owned sites which includes large sites such as Sky Park and Science Park, few are owned by East Devon District Council.
1. The detail of the report be noted and the existing evidence that will inform the broad strategic approach to employment provision in the new local plan be considered.
2. The commissioning/collecting further evidence as needed to ensure that there is sufficient robust evidence on employment need and supply to justify strategic policy on employment requirement provision in include in the local plan be agreed in principle.
3. The key concepts highlighted in paragraph 6.2 of the report be considered and to incorporate these into the employment strategy for the new local plan be agreed.