Employment Evidence/Economic Policy
Evidence Base - Economic Policy
The PRC wrote to MSDC sometime ago to discover when and how they were going to gather data and information on employment in East Grinstead.
Since 2001 there has bee a substantial loss of jobs in the town - perhaps 20%.
MSDC don't bother to monitor the number - which begs the question, how can they agree to additional housing to East Grinstead if there are no jobs (net) being created here?
Houses do not bring growth locally and it is entirely untrue that "without housing the town will die". The Town will die if MSDC continue to fail to have an effective economic policy. Housing could of course support growth in the local economy. Half of East Grinstead residents already commute out of town for work - the District Plan risks the town becoming, increasingly a commuter suburb of Crawley/Gatwick.
Below are the questions we put to the planners and their answers. Although these questions were posed and answered sometime ago from what we can see on the MSDC website the Council has not made any significant progress on this matter.
Questions made to MSDC planners
We note that the recent review of employment land commissioned jointly by MSDC, CBC (Crawley Borough Council) and HDC (Horsham District Council) has been added to the evidence base for the Core Strategy (District Plan).
We have been awaiting with mounting anticipation the Council's analysis of the current employment landscape in the various settlements of the District, as this is clearly essential to deriving a sustainable spatial strategy within the Core Strategy (District Plan).
National and Regional policies require LPAs (local planning authorities) to co-ordinate new housing with new job delivery. This is to promote sustainable communities and ensure that the need to use the private car for commuting to and from work is minimised. This is a particular problem in Mid Sussex where currently the use of the private car is very high in national terms. This is no doubt largely explained by the lack of a practical public transport offer within the District and the exorbitant cost of what little is on offer. Successfully matching housing and employment growth will also have a major effect on the District's carbon footprint and hence its response to the issue of Climate Change.
Available evidence - both documented and anecdotal - indicates that in the case of East Grinstead there has been a substantial loss of employment in the town even since the 2001 Census. We were rather expecting the recent Employment Study (GL Hearn) to at least record the current level of employment in East Grinstead (and at the very least each settlement where the District Council is proposing substantial growth under the emerging Core Strategy) as well as the recent trends. But to our astonishment there is no mention at all of such information in the latest report. Indeed there is virtually no reference to East Grinstead at all in terms of factual data to base any evaluation on.
Throughout the report overall numbers are given relating to Mid Sussex, as if the district was uniform, and yet the same report itself stresses that the district demonstrates disparate employment landscapes.
So, the report offers no evidence that would inform a decision as to where housing might be allocated so as to support employment growth and thus, as far as we can tell, no assessment can even be made of likely impact of commuting/bus usage or other impacts.
The Core Strategy (District Plan) is required to be evidence based. National and regional policies require the LPA to co-ordinate housing and employment expansion. As far as we are able to determine from the council website, MSDC has produced no analysis of the current employment landscape by settlement nor the current trends. There is no evaluation of what the future trends might be without intervention through a pro-active economic development strategy by the Council (a “Do Nothing” strategy) so there can be no intelligent assessment of the likely consequences of any spatial strategy. This is not evidence based planning.
From the succession of documents published on the website, including those for various Better Environment Advisory Group meetings, the District Council appears to remain intent on planning for a substantial increase in the population of East Grinstead - apparently at least 2,500 new homes. Extrapolating from the AAP evidence base 2,500 new homes would lead to 6,235 new residents of which 3,233 will be expected to participate in the job market. The District Council needs to be able to explain where 3,233 jobs are going to come from and how many will be in East Grinstead. We have been unable to find any such explanation.
With this in mind, we would be most grateful if you could provide answers to the following questions:
Q1: Could you please confirm what, if any, other analyses of the employment conditions in East Grinstead exist within the District Council’s evidence base for the Core Strategy?
MSDC response to Q1
The Employment Land Review Part 1 Report is currently the principal and most up to date document that is helping to inform the development of Core Strategy policies relating to the employment and the economy. The document does itself draw on a number of sources of data and information and which are acknowledged in the report. There are currently no other analyses specifically relating to employment conditions in East Grinstead. However, other relevant sources of information include the previous Atkins Employment Land Review, data and reports commissioned or provided by West Sussex County Council on the economy of the County including the data for the Annual Monitoring Report and the annual industrial estates directory, and information from bodies such as SEEDA, Business Link and Sussex Enterprise. There is also information available on government websites such as ONS and nomis. I acknowledge that a difficulty with economic and employment data is that much of it is only provided at District level and above. Also, where it is produced at a lower level, such as the Annual Business Survey, it can be restricted information to avoid identification of individual businesses.
Q2: Rather surprisingly the report does conclude that approx 4 ha of new employment land should be allocated in East Grinstead on the Birches Industrial Estate. On what basis is that figure arrived at and what type of new business does it assume?
The ELR Report’s conclusions and reasoning for its recommendations throughout the study area are contained primarily in Chapters 7 & 8. Net floorspace requirements for each of the districts are calculated. These are based on the various scenarios that were tested, including the recommended hybrid scenario, and take account of factors such as the current recession and changes in working practices. The study also builds in adjustments for leakage and churn. Forecast net employment floorspace demand is calculated, and using plot ratio assumptions, total net employment land requirements for each district/borough by use class are provided. The report also acknowledges that there may be an argument for allocation of additional land for a number of qualitative reasons.
Taking these various factors into account it concludes by making various land area recommendations for different parts of the study area. In the case of East Grinstead, assessment of the various factors outlined above lead the report to recommend that 4ha of land should be identified at East Grinstead (while the Birches Industrial Estate is mentioned in the previous paragraph, this is not specified as a location for such development in the recommendation). With regard to the type of new business development, the recommendation refers to B1c, B2 and B8 development.
Q3: Given the undoubted loss of employment opportunities in the town, a clear trend in recent years, the District Council needs to explain how it intends to reverse this trend. Without a positive plan to intervene to attract new or grow existing businesses what evidence leads the District Council to expect any growth whatsoever in local employment? And how many new jobs (net) are predicted from this evidence?
Q4: If there is no commensurate growth in jobs how can any housebuilding contribute to a sustainable community?
Q5: Without a policy to create new jobs in the town, and given the current trend with declining job opportunities, the new workers living in the town will have to commute somewhere - where does the Council expect this to be and on what basis does the Council reach their conclusions?
MSDC response to Q 3-5:
I believe it is vital to seek to ensure that there is employment provision within the District and its constituent towns that is sufficient and suitable to meet, as far as possible, the needs and aspirations of its communities. The economy and employment do not recognise local authority boundaries and there will always be an element of commuting into or out of any given area, including Mid Sussex, whatever floorspace or employment provision is made locally. However, it must be an objective to reduce as much as possible the degree of outcommuting from Mid Sussex to employment areas elsewhere, not least in the interests of sustainability, and the provision of sufficient employment land will help to secure that objective.
The Local Development Framework is a key mechanism through which these issues can be addressed, by seeking to make appropriate employment provision at a strategic level through the Core Strategy and later in more detail through the Site Allocations DPDs. In addition, the District Council is preparing, in association with our business community, a new Economic Development Strategy for Mid Sussex. This Strategy and the related annual action plans will include a range of objectives and measures to support the growth and development of the economy of Mid Sussex. This will support and promote future economic growth and will include helping to the development and growth of existing local companies as well as attracting new inward investment into the District from outside. This also reflects the approach within the Mid Sussex Partnership’s Sustainable Communities Strategy, where the promotion of economic vitality is a key theme. The District Council’s commitment to the Gatwick Diamond initiative also demonstrates its positive approach to development of the local economy. We will seek to ensure that Mid Sussex and its towns benefit from appropriate and sustainable future economic growth and prosperity arising from the initiative.
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