Employment Land

14 Feb

Sandra Semple has sent us this note of a meeting she attended in 2010:

31 August 2010

Yesterday, I made yet another forey into “The Woodshed” from whence something nasty comes in the book Cold Comfort Farm (see below), otherwise known as The Knowle, ancient seat of East Devon District Council. My reason: to see how the thorny question of employment would be handled at the Local Development Framework Panel meeting.

I made my small, humble contribution, asking why the only two reports which had ever been submitted to the former LDF Panel managed to reach such different conclusions. One by Atkins (consultants employed by EDDC who have done lots of these things, some in Devon) said that in 2007 (yes, isn’t it a long time ago) there was about 88 hectares of employment land available. This report was savaged by our old friends in the East Devon Business Forum which said there was only 6 ha available not 88 ha and MUCH more industrial land was needed (with EDBF members no doubt happy to help find the land to put in the pot that they say needed filling to the brim).

I pointed out that the EDDC “Task and Finish” group which was set up to examine these two reports was eerily similar to the EDBF membership, Councillor Brown being in both groups (Chairman of EDBF and representing the National Farmers Union not EDDC at the EDBF), Councillor Goddard (EDDC rep to the EDBF) and Councillor Ingham (who seems to have been the only one with no previous connection to the EDBF). Who guards the guards? I am investigating exactly which other councillors were on the TAFF and hope to have the information shortly.

I asked if EDDC could clarify exactly who was on their Task and Finish group, since I can find no documentation that actually lists its members (confusingly, its reports only speaks of councillors present at meetings but does not list which of those councillors were members of the Task and Finish group). I also asked, given the big discrepancy between 88 ha and 6 ha just how much weight was going to be given to each report?

Sad to say, I didn’t really get a straight answert to either question. However, Nigel Harrison (EDDC’s Economic Development Manager and the raporteur for EDBF, (which is mostly if not wholly funded by EDDC, by the way) did provide some clarification of one thing. The 6 ha of the EDBF was (I am paraphrasing very slightly here) “land where if someone rings me up and asks where there is 50,000 sq ft of employment land available now, I can tell them where it is”. So, it’s just a snapshot of what is available on a particular day. Funny then that it should form the basis of evidence for an LDF supposed to last from now to 2026 but no-one mentioned or queried exactly what it represented!

Councillor Brown said that he was upset that I had brought this up as he had “talked to me about it” before. I made it VERY clear to everyone assembled that, to my knowledge, I had NEVER discussed this with him, so one of us obviously has memory problems.

So, here we are, 88 ha and 6 ha. What to do? Fear not, Mrs Little has a plan. ANOTHER report, this time by Roger Tym (the same people who have done the housing report). And will this one be reliable? Well, no-one seemed to be able to say as they could not decide (and had never previously decided it seems) (a) what actually constitutes employment land and (b) whether it should just be square metres or whether location, quality and availability should also be included. It led to a very unsatisfactory decision to basically “wait and see”. I’m not sure what for or how long but that was the decision.

So, how much employment land DO we need? Hectares and hectares if you believe EDDC and EDBF. Councillor Skinner pointed out that these are recession years, so we should not be taking current levels of interest or need into account, since things can only get better. However, this one was swiftly demolished by Councillor Giles (from the floor) who pointed out that in the EDDC agenda documents in front of us all it stated that only 32 h (AVERAGE 2 ha per year) extra of employment land had been required over the last 16 years, some of which have been the boomiest ever!!! This led to a rather odd contribution from the Leader of EDDC, Councillor Diviani who said (paraphrase again) well, if I have 70 seat restaurant I don’t expect it to be a sell out every night but occasionally I might seat 70. Which seems to mean: lets have lots an lots of empty industrial units because one day we might need it! But just because you have a 70 seat restaurant doesn’t mean that you might ever seat 70 – surely it depends on the price and quality of the food and the location of the restaurant! Back to the drawing board, though no-one can decide what the drawing board … no let’s not go there.

Other nuggets: the guy from Skypark said: if you insist on including masses of sites in East Devon like all the people in suits here want we have a problem as the oversupply could mean that we will not be able to develop Skypark! There were quite a few developers or planning agents there in their smart suits, one of whom made a great hit with the Chairman who fulsomely complimented him twice on two different presentations for two local developers.

And what about the airport – where they say they are going to provide 2,500 jobs on 15 ha of land – and the inter-modal freight facility – where they say they might, but only might, have around 400 jobs? Is this employment land? Is it counted by East Devon in the LDF? Er, no. Why? Because it isn’t East Devon that is bringing these project forward! Employment land: it walks like a duck, it quacks like a duck, it looks like a duck, but it isn’t a duck because it’s not OUR duck.

Tip: no point in reading the press release sent out by EDDC after the meeting. In my humble opinion it bore no resemblance to the meeting at all. Indeed, reading it, I am more and more convinced that EDDC and I live in parallel universes!

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One Response to “Employment Land”

  1. Graham February 14, 2014 at 3:17 pm #

    Yesterday the Employment Land Supply figures below were presented to the East Devon Local Plan inspector. We can see despite a 5 year interval the figures given by the independent experts Atkins and Tyms for the rest of ED are similar ie 50% less than the EDDC LP 2013 estimate. (Note how after the TAFF 2007 report the figures were inflated!

    Source Total Hectares West End Rest ED
    Atkins 2006 124 90 34
    LDF 2010 186 111 75
    LD 2011 180 87 93
    Roger Tym’s 2011 133 101 32
    Local Plan LP 2013 192(incl IM) 122(incl IM) 68

    Note IM Intermodal Freight Interchange 44Ha)

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