Sunday 6 October 2013

What is the difference between a 'business park'... and a 'retail park'... Part Two

Having considered Exmouth:
Futures Forum: What is the difference between a 'business park'... and a 'retail park'?
and the wider issue of the desirability of retail parks:
Futures Forum: Are 'retail parks' a good thing?
what is the debate as far as other parts of East Devon are concerned?

This is from the Public Local Inquiry on the Local Plan from 2004:

7.3 The majority of ‘employment’ uses are those which fall within Use Classes B1 (Business), B2 (General Industrial) or B8 (Storage or Distribution) and in a number ofcases, such as at Honiton’s Heathpark industrial estate, planning permissions have been granted which allow for any or all of these Classes, to allow flexibility for occupiers and to avoid the need for applications for changes of use which, almost by definition, are likely to be acceptable on such estates.


It is clear that the system allows for a certain amount of 'flexibility'. The question remains, however, as to how the promise of Heathpark went from a B1/B2 employment site (office/general industrial) to hosting the likes of Homebase Homebase at Honiton - homebase.co.uk under A1 land use.

To quote Honiton Town Council:

In recent years there has been an increase of A1/A2 development on Heathpark Industrial Estate. More B1/B2 development would be desirable in order to increase higher paid employment opportunities, but not bulk goods warehouses.[1] The Town Council strongly opposes any development for employment on greenfield sites especially as this is often as a direct result of the unwelcome proliferation of retail use at Heathpark. The Town Council is aware of the decision by the Inspector in the case of Countrywide but continues to stress that the proliferation of retail on this site has the effects of loss of land for B1/B2 development, increase in low income employment and harm to the main shopping area in the High Street and believes that policies must be strengthened to prevent further such incidents.

(submission to Local Plan panel 6 Sept 2011)

The Atkins Employment Land report from 2007 had warned about this tendency:

5.45 Heathpark Industrial Estate is a large scale strategically important employment area to west of Hontion providing a range of industrial premises for a number of different occupiers, including a business centre for small and micro businesses. A total of 3.3ha of vacant land in addition to a further 1.56ha of opportunity land that could be developed in the longer term was identified within the site. The site scores well against most criteria, again with good access to the SRN and good bus links, with development opportunities on brownfield land located within the urban area. The site is likely to be suitable for continued light industrial and small scale distribution. 
Further small business units may also be possible. It will be important not to allow many more non B-class units onto the site to ensure that further employment land is not lost and does not compromise the effective operation of the site. 


And as cited in Futures Forum: Are 'retail parks' a good thing? 'flexibility' can indeed prove very welcome:

Some aggressive asset management by owners, including sustained demands for broader consents -allowing for a wider use of units beyond just for bulky goods - has allowed retailers traditionally wedded to the high street to consider out-of-town properties.

Analysis: Retail parks go from strength to strength | Analysis | Retail Week

In which case, to what extent can any classification of land use,whether B1/B2 or A1/A2, be 'guaranteed'? 

The Vision Group for Sidmouth submitted the following in June 2012 as part of its comment on the proposed Local Plan:

(submitted 8th June 2012)
All the major local bodies in Sidmouth have expressed concern about the status of any new employment land:
Sidmouth Town Council:
“Any future development should be restricted to B1 and B2 and consideration given to the area north of the A3052 (above Waitrose) and not the proposed site at Sidford.” 
Sid Vale Association:
10“4.7. We understand that the Employment land would have “a particular onus” in favour of B1 zoning. This is primarily for office space, but B1 includes industrial uses that are acceptable in residential areas. We are very concerned that if new employment land is allocated in the LDP, pressure will come from others, such as Supermarket operators, to establish themselves, which will be harder to resist.”
Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce: 
“The document states that there will be ’a particular onus’ on B1 use, but statements from the authority say that the employment land will be restricted to ’office use only’;… that there will only be a ‘particular onus’ on B1 use, so other use classes such as retail are not precluded, merely discouraged. We do not believe that this vague wording adds up to a meaningful policy that would stand up to challenge from a determined applicant, acting in partnership with the owner of the site or sites who will be keen to extend the range of use classes for obvious commercial reasons.”
(Submission of 28th January 2012 as yet not available on-line at www.eddc.gov.uk .)


That is, the draft Local Plan proposed: 
provision of up to 5 hectares of additional employment land, with a particular onus on B1 space
www.sidmouth.gov.uk/PDFs/STC Minutes 2012/Local Plan Response May 2012.pdf

This has now been amended to:
provision of up to 5 hectares of additional employment land, with a particular onus on B1 space with uses (with any retail “ancillary to primary use of each unit”.)

This, many observers fear, will provide considerable 'flexibility' for future applications of land use at the site:
Futures Forum: District Council - Submission of the new Local Plan........... deadline Monday 7th October..... pro forma letter from SOS

There have been initial proposals for a 'business park' at Sidford: 
3.2 The proposed scheme will see the provision of a number of commercial/industrial units with associated car parking, access and landscaping arrangements. As an outland application no firm detail except that an indicative mix of the proposed accommodation are tabulated below: 
 9120sq.m B1 office development; 
 6840sq.m B2 light industrial units; 
 B8 commercial warehousing of 6840sq.m; and 
 The associated parking, landscaping and internal access. 


And yet the southern area of East Devon does not appear short of 'employment land':
Commercial property to rent and let in Sidford | Find a commercial property in Sidford for rent

Finally: the District Council's Task and Finish Forum on the Viability of High Streets has made it very clear that out-of-town trading should not be encouraged in East Devon:

Councillor Tim Wood 
Chairman of the Vitality of High Streets and Town Centres Task and Finish Forum 
Members: Graham Brown; Roger Giles; Pat Graham; Steve Hall; Sheila Kerridge; and John O’Leary 
There is little doubt that town centres are under increasing pressure from the competition coming from out of town trading.  

See also: Futures Forum: Can anyone save the High Street?