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Representations on Policy WC1: Stanway Strategic Employment Area and West Colchester Policies Map
Strutt & Parker LLP have been instructed by Tollgate Partnership Ltd to submit representation, in respect of their land interest at Trafalgar Farm, London Road, Stanway.
Within the current adopted Proposals Map, the site is allocated as 'Employment Zone' and also a 'Strategic Employment Zone'. The site is also located within the Colchester Settlement Boundary.
The adopted Site Allocations Development Plan Document (DPD) identifies that land off London Road forms part of the 'Strategic Employment Zone', where policy SA STA3 of the DPD (Employment and Retail Uses in Stanway Growth Area) considers uses B1(b), B1(c), B2 and B8 to be appropriate in this location, with some ancillary retailing also being considered acceptable. Furthermore, table CE1b of the adopted Core Strategy states that the appropriate primary uses for Employment Zones include B1(b), B1(c), B2 and B8, with B1(a), C1, D2 and Sui Generis being appropriate secondary uses.
Preferred Options Local Plan: Policy WC1: Stanway Strategic Employment Area and West Colchester Policies Map
We note that the draft Preferred Options Local Plan Proposals Map for 'West Colchester' now excludes the site from the 'Strategic Employment Area - Zone 1', despite the fact that the surrounding sites have still been included within this designated zone (paragraph 6.66 - full details in attachment).
The justification for the change to the plan therefore appears to be that there is considered by the Council to be no likelihood of delivery and that the use continues to be farm related. In response to this, I have been asked by the client to write to clarify the following:
Site ownership and scope for development
The site at Trafalgar Farm is within the ownership of Mr Cobbold. My client however continues to have an interest in the site and as noted in the land registry, title my client benefits from a restriction on disposition. The site is no longer in active agricultural use as covered in further detail below and therefore there remains a strong likelihood that this site will come forward for development within the plan period.
Lack of on-going agricultural use
The site has historically been used for agricultural purposes including chicken sheds. This use is however no longer continuing, and there are no livestock on site. The farm additionally does not benefit from any surrounding associated agricultural land in order to support a continued agricultural use over the coming plan period. We understand the Mr Cobbold has informed the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) that he has now retired and has no livestock on site. We understand this has been recorded; however, at present, the site retains an agricultural holding number. As Mr Cobbold is himself retired, it is understood he continues to explore opportunities for diversification as a future use of this site given that the agricultural use cannot continue.
Government support for re-use of rural buildings
The Government through national planning policy, guidance and permitted development rights has sought to provide additional flexibility for the re-use of buildings previously used for agricultural purposes. In this context, it should be noted that many types of business or an employment use could potentially be carried out under permitted development rights. Notwithstanding this, given the number of buildings on site, the extent of existing development, including hardstanding, and the strategic location in close proximity to designated employment areas, it is considered that an allocation for an employment use would best support the future use of the site and would best represent sustainable development.
Planning history and permitted applications
Land adjoining the site is allocated for employment purposes and has been the subject of a considerable number of planning applications and employment related development. Full details included in attachment. The site is therefore already in use for employment purposes. It is accordingly not considered appropriate to exclude this area from employment allocation, given its use for employment related development has already been consented. The area of car park use on the southern part of the site is as indicated on the attached plan from the approved planning application.
Consideration of suitable uses over the coming plan period
The NPPF states at paragraph 20-21 that "To help achieve economic growth, local planning authorities should plan proactively to meet the development needs of business and support an economy fit for the 21st century." "Investment in business should not be over-burdened by the combined requirements of planning policy expectations. Planning policies should recognise and seek to address potential barriers to investment, including a poor environment or any lack of infrastructure, services or housing".
The NPPF goes on to state that "In drawing up Local Plans, local planning authorities should:
support existing business sectors, taking account of whether they are expanding or contracting and, where possible, identify and plan for new or emerging sectors likely to locate in their area. Policies should be flexible enough to accommodate needs not anticipated in the plan and to allow a rapid response to changes in economic circumstances"
National planning policy is therefore particularly supportive of the need for flexibility in the Local Plan to allow for economic growth and importantly of the need to plan proactively to meet business needs and support the economy. In this context and for the reasons set out above, it is considered the land at Trafalgar Farm remains well placed to meet employment and economic needs over the coming plan period, given that the existing use can no longer continue.
With regard to protection of sites for employment use, the NPPF, at paragraph 22 states that "Planning policies should avoid the long term protection of sites allocated for employment use where there is no reasonable prospect of a site being used for that purpose. Land allocations should be regularly reviewed. Where there is no reasonable prospect of a site being used for the allocated employment use, applications for alternative uses of land or buildings should be treated on their merits having regard to market signals and the relative need for different land uses to support sustainable local communities".
The allocation of the site at Trafalgar Farm for employment uses has been long standing in the previous Local Plan and as set out above there remains a very real prospect of the site being used for employment use. This provision is therefore not considered to reasonably apply to the site and in any case makes clear that should there not be a reasonable prospect of employment use, applications for alternative uses should be considered on their merits. This reflect the fact that the potential for development of this site is well established in the plan and does not lend support to the Council's currently proposed approach of de-allocation.
Lack of material change in circumstances
As detailed above there has been no material change in circumstances since the site's allocation in the previous Core Strategy, Site Allocations or Core Strategy Focused Review documents, and there remains a very reasonable prospect of employment use on the site. If anything the likelihood of this use is considered likely to have increased given the reduction in agricultural activity.
Strategic Site Location
The site is now located between two business/industrial parks and between allocated land. There would therefore be no merit or benefit in de-allocating the land as proposed in the preferred options plan, given this site contains existing development and cannot reasonable by considered to contribute towards the wider landscape or countryside. Redevelopment of the site for employment purposes remains the most appropriate and realistic use over the coming plan period and it is considered this should be reflect within the emerging Local Plan.
I hope this additional information is of assistance and hope that this will allow the Council to reconsider the current approach to this land in the next draft of the emerging Local Plan.