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6 / EMPLOYMENT & TOURISM

EMPLOYMENT & TOURISM POLICIES

Policy E1 Provision of employment land

Policy E2 Land south of Cambridge Road

Policy E3 Land west of Elstow Bypass

Policy E4 Land west of B530

Policy E5 Land east of B530

Policy E7 Land at Marsh Leys Farm

Policy E9 Coronation Brickworks

Policy E10 Elstow Brickworks

Policy E11 Thurleigh Airfield

Policy E12 Loss of employment land

Policy E13 Redevelopment of employment sites

Policy E14 Working from home

Policy E15 Business uses in residential areas

Policy E16 Premises for small businesses

Policy E17 Business uses within SPAs

Policy E18 Re-use of rural buildings

Policy E19 Loss of employment sites in the countryside / rural settlements

Policy E20 Intensification on existing employment sites

Policy E21 Farm diversification

Policy E22 Equestrian development

Policy E23 Encouraging tourism

Policy E24 Provision of signposting

Policy E25 Tourist accommodation

Policy E26 Touring caravans

Policy E27 Static caravans / chalets

INTRODUCTION

6.1 As the County Town, Bedford is an important administrative centre for both public and private organisations and a regional base for professional, retail and cultural services. It is home to technological and research enterprises as well as a diverse range of industrial sectors including engineering, food and drink, health care and distribution. It is an important focus for economic and employment growth in the county.

6.2 The Borough Council is committed to supporting the local economy. The aim of the Borough Council as adopted in 1995 states ‘Working in partnership with our community we aim to create and sustain across the whole of Bedford Borough an environment which stimulates prosperity and is conducive to social cohesion and a good quality of life for all’. The Council’s new objectives place an increased emphasis on economic development and regeneration of the Borough and are underpinned by the ethos of community development and partnership working.

6.3 The Local Plan is one element of the Borough's strategy to enhance the economic prospects of Bedford, to attract investment and to create a good environment for jobs. As such it dovetails with the Borough's Economic Development Strategy which identifies the key actions for the Council and other bodies with which it works in partnership, to ensure continued prosperity for the town and its residents.

6.4 The Local Plan is also concerned with ensuring that the Borough can offer a range of sites in terms of type and size which will meet the needs of industry, in locations well related to residential areas and existing public transport networks which provide the potential for a reduction in travel to work trips. The Structure Plan 2011 encourages this approach.

6.5 The consideration of planning policies to promote and guide tourism development in the Borough begins at para 6.58 below.

KEY ISSUES

6.6 This chapter addresses the following key issues:

1 The value of Bedford developing its role as the County Town maximising its function as a key employment and service centre to its hinterland, and capitalising on proposed improvements to the strategic road network.

2 The continuing reduction in the local employment base which forces greater reliance upon employment opportunities elsewhere, notably London, so acting against the interests of achieving improved levels of environmental sustainability.

3 In the context of Bedfordshire, levels of unemployment in some areas of the Borough which are considered unacceptable.

4 The decline of the traditional employment opportunities in the urban area and the need for reinvestment in order to maintain a range of opportunities and a balanced land use mix.

5 The need to maintain a healthy rural economy.

6 The need to ensure that the reuse of Thurleigh Airfield contributes significantly to the provision of employment opportunities.

STRATEGIC & LOCAL CONTEXT

6.7. The Structure Plan 2011 seeks to move the weight of new housing development to the north of the County and the allocations for Bedford Borough are as a result greater than would be implied by ‘natural growth’. In addition there were 4,056 people registered as unemployed in the Borough in October 1996 (above the County average) and over recent years the rate of job creation has not kept pace with job losses from firms like George Fischer, Eatons, Texas Instruments and Meltis. Overall the thinking behind the Structure Plan is that the existing level of employment land provision in the county is broadly sufficient to meet the needs to 2011. However the mix, quality and location of existing provision needs to be appraised by the local planning authorities against the changing demands of industry and local employment needs.

6.8 Embodied in the Structure Plan is a strategy to encourage the County and its major towns to become more sustainable. This implies a reduction in the number and length of trips particularly by road and thus the creation of increasingly self-sufficient communities. In Bedford 22.4% of the local workforce commuted out of the Borough to work (1991 census), compared with 17.4% ten years earlier. This may indicate that Bedford is tending to become more of a dormitory community. From 1991 the Structure Plan proposes that there should be accommodation for an additional 11,700 dwellings in the Borough by the year 2006. Furthermore, given the burden of additional housing development requirements in the north of the County, it is essential to ensure a reasonable balance between employment and housing.

6.9 Account should be taken of the need to reduce high levels of local unemployment which have been compounded by recent job losses at major employers and the need to broaden the local employment base. With the completion of the Southern Bypass Bedford needs to be in a good position to attract new investment. In short, the Local Plan needs to contain planning policies that encourage investment and job creation and ensure that the supply of land is not an obstacle to further economic development.

EMPLOYMENT LAND SUPPLY

6.10 The Council must ensure that sufficient land is available to meet the needs of new and expanding firms, and firms wishing to relocate, enabling full advantage to be taken of the opportunities which Bedford offers and to provide job opportunities for new households to be created during the plan period and beyond.

6.11 The monitoring of employment land supply over recent years reveals that between 4 and 5 hectares of land have been developed for business purposes on average each year, but that at the same time 3 to 4 hectares of existing employment land have been lost to other uses notably housing and retail warehousing. Whilst this may represent the partial restructuring of the local economy, it does demonstrate that overall little real progress has been made in improving the scope for increased employment opportunities. In addition, of the land with outstanding planning permission in January 1996, approximately a quarter comprised the Priory Business Park. Since the first of January 1995 28% of the outstanding employment permissions has been lost to non-business uses, and none of the sites designated by virtue of the 1993 Local Plan have been developed. The Norse Road Appeal decision in August 1996 accounts for a significant part of this loss. The Borough undertakes annual surveys of the supply of employment land and the results of the most recent survey is shown in Table E1.

Table E1

Employment Land Supply

Bedford Borough

Employment Land Monitoring

Position as at 1st January 1997

Hectares

Completions since 1 Jan 1988 (net)

6.0

Sites with planning permission as at 1 Jan 1997 (net)#

42.0

Adopted Local Plan allocations to 1996 (net)

6.4

Current supply

54.40ha

(# This includes changes of use on brownfield sites, redevelopment of existing employment sites and some residual land on large industrial/business parks)

6.12 Whilst the supply of employment land is perhaps theoretically sufficient to meet a continuation of such take-up rates during the plan period, this rate is insufficient to generate enough local jobs over the plan period for a growing population.

6.13 Bedford needs to rapidly expand its job opportunities. Investment decisions made by business are influenced by a wide range of factors, but the fact that the Borough has not performed as well as Milton Keynes or Northampton indicates that local factors are at work. Some of these are amenable to change and some of these in turn are land use related. It is clear that a quantitative analysis fails to consider the needs of the market in qualitative terms or the need for Bedford to establish a competitive edge in promoting its local economy.

6.14 The town has much to offer as a new employment location. It can provide a high quality of life, in a clean and attractive environment and it has a skilled and adaptable workforce. Bedford is positioned between the A1 and M1 and the opening of the Southern Bypass together with greater certainty that other key links in the strategic network will be built, should dispel the image of Bedford as being locationally disadvantaged. These events mark an important opportunity to promote economic growth and increased signs of activity are apparent.

6.14a This opportunity is also reflected and promoted by the Borough’s location within the Oxford to Cambridge ARC. The ARC is an important initiative that builds on the strength of the local knowledge based business cluster and locates Bedford Borough within a high profile corridor of growth associated with the centres of excellence at Oxford and Cambridge. As the ARC initiative gains momentum it has the potential to significantly shape the employment opportunities in the Borough.

6.15 To capitalise on this situation, the Borough must ensure that the range of sites available for new investment is both attractive and competitive in the wider regional context. Bedford as the main centre in the north of the county has the responsibility and the advantage of acting as a focus of growth over an area greater than the Borough.

6.16 In this context and in the light of representations made at the consultation draft stage, the Borough Council has reviewed employment land availability, and now makes proposals to designate 80 hectares which includes land that in the opinion of the Council represents the most attractive sites for a range of employment purposes in order to ensure that economic growth is encouraged and not fettered. The figure given for each site area is a net developable figure and provides an indicative figure, prior to detailed site assessments and layouts being produced.

POLICY E1
The Borough Council identifies approximately 80 hectares of additional employment land (Use Classes B1, B2 and B8) on the Proposals Map to foster local economic growth and provide for a range and variety of sites for economic development and will seek to ensure that such land is brought actively to the market.

6.17 The allocation of employment land for the purposes defined in classes B1, B2, B8 of the Use Classes Order, is made taking into account all the above matters and the future loss of employment land as anticipated by this Local Plan. Allocation in itself does not create jobs and the Borough Council looks to landowners and developers to take the necessary positive steps to bring sites forward for development. In order to prevent allocated employment sites falling to more commercially attractive uses (such as housing) the Borough Council will normally refuse applications for development of them outside the B1, B2, B8 range. This will ensure that both the quantity and quality of available new employment sites is maintained for the duration of the plan and complements Policy E12 relating to the loss of existing employment sites.

6.17a The Council will continue to monitor employment floorspace and produce a yearly position statement. This process will involve monitoring the local plan allocations set out in Table E2. The absence of clear action may indicate an oversupply that would need to be adjusted and the Council may consider de-allocating selected sites in due course. In such circumstances, alternative uses will not necessarily involve built development.

6.18 The identification of employment development sites accords with the development strategy described in Chapter 2 of this Local Plan The proposals listed in Table E2 should be regarded in the context of other policies of this Local Plan and specifically policies E2 to E11 which deal with the nature of development of individual sites and policy E16 which deals with the provision of accommodation for small businesses.

Table E2

Employment Sites

In and adjoining

urban areas

Land south of Cambridge Road

Net developable area in hectares

10.88

Land West of A6 at Elstow

*0

Land west of B530

3.40

Land east of B530

1.36

Land west of Kempston

2.00

Land north of Bromham Road (Cut Throat Lane)

4.00

Shortstown

***0

Sub total

21.64

South West Bedford

Strategic Corridor

Marsh Leys Farm

31.00

Elstow Storage Depot

**11.00

Land at former Elstow Brickworks

**2.00

Land at former Coronation Brickworks

**8.00

Land south of Fields Road, Wootton

9.00

Land west of Broadmead Road, Stewartby

2.40

Sub total

63.40

Other areas

Luton Road, Wilstead

0.44

Total

85.48

* Already counted in previous Local Plan allocation.

** Nominal figure subject to consideration as part of the proposed development brief

*** Land may also be available as part of the mixed use development at Shortstown – amount to be determined in revised development brief.

6.19 In much the same way as sites are dealt with in the Housing chapter, the designation of additional employment land is on the basis of the net developable area of each site. The Borough Council has made allowance for known site constraints and requirements for worthwhile landscaping not least to help ensure that new industrial and commercial development can make a positive contribution to environmental standards and the quality of design. A number of the sites designated for employment development are highly prominent and are at the main road and rail entrances to the urban area. As such the quality achieved in their development will create a strong initial impression. Thus consideration will be given to the height, massing and orientation of proposed buildings, their disposition within the site and in relation to neighbouring property and the public highway, the quality and reflective nature of materials, and the disposition and strength of internal and peripheral landscaping. These are matters of urban design and in this regard reference should be made to the Built Environment chapter.

6.20 At the same time as encouraging employment investment in relation to transport corridors there is a need to promote a more sustainable pattern of development (for example mixed use developments) and to protect existing employment in areas which are well related to residential areas, and overall to provide the opportunity to reduce travel to work journeys and make further use of public transport.

PROPOSED EMPLOYMENT SITES

6.21 To ensure that the sites listed in Table E2 and shown on the Proposals Map are developed in accordance with the strategy and in a manner sensitive to their setting, the Borough Council has formulated a policy in relation to each proposal. These establish the key principles against which any subsequent planning applications will be considered, in addition to relevant policies contained elsewhere in this plan and other material considerations. Constraints exist on many of the sites arising from archaeological concerns, flood risk, access and other infrastructural criteria. These will be addressed in development briefs and/or at the planning application stage. Where necessary and appropriate the Borough Council will seek to enter into legal agreements in order to secure the provisions of these policies and other matters.

6.22 The development of business premises in recent years has almost exclusively been as a direct response to a specific tenant/occupier requirement and there has been little if any speculative development. Whilst this is a reflection of current market conditions, the position will change and the Borough Council would wish to encourage investment across the range of unit types and sizes in order to ensure an adequate qualitative supply of premises for local businesses and those that might be attracted to the area. The scope for particular sites to provide a range of units will vary and as planning applications are submitted in relation to designated sites such considerations will be examined and as appropriate taken into account.

SITES IN AND ADJOINING THE URBAN AREA

6.23 In accordance with the Borough Strategy allocations are made first in relation to the urban area and adjoining sites with a particular emphasis on the strategic accessibility afforded by the Southern Bypass. The employment potential of ‘opportunity sites’ should also be taken into account (see Policy S2 and Appendix D) in this regard as should the value of existing employment sites within Bedford/Kempston in meeting strategic needs and local requirements.

6.24 The development of land south of Cambridge Road was discussed at the last Local Plan Inquiry and the Inspector recommended that it be allocated if necessary to create an adequate supply of employment land in the context of targets set by the then Structure Plan. In these circumstances and because the Borough Council is concerned that economic investment should not be restrained, it is suggested that this site could be released for development immediately. The opening of the Southern Bypass has raised the profile of this site, and the need for high quality development at this important Gateway site is now emphasised by its increased visual prominence.

POLICY E2
Land south of Cambridge Road as shown on the Proposals Map shall be developed for Use Classes B1, B2 and B8. Key principles of development include:
i) the design, height, and orientation of buildings and the choice of materials and the extent and strength of internal and peripheral landscaping shall be appropriate to this prominent gateway site;
ii) vehicular access should be provided from both the roundabout at the junction with the A600/A421 slip road and at the eastern part of Cambridge Road, to the satisfaction of the Highways Agency and the highways authority, including any necessary off-site improvements as required;
iii) extensive planting to protect the residential amenity of properties in Cambridge Road and Harrowden Road, and to contribute to the mitigation of the visual impact of the proposed development; and,
iv) the provision of cycleways/footpaths linking with the urban area in a safe and convenient manner including satisfactory provision for pedestrians/cyclists to cross the A600.
v) progress the closure of Cambridge Road to normal through traffic within the timescale of the development of the Cambridge Road employment site, subject to the requirements of the highway authority for maintaining a public transport route and both cycle and pedestrian movement here, and provision of a turning head for service vehicles;
vi) contribution to the provision of public transport facilities and services to encourage more sustainable journey patterns.

6.25 Land west of Elstow Bypass was allocated in the 1993 Borough Local Plan. Only a small part of this site remains to be developed. It lies beside key road and rail approaches to Bedford and this, by virtue of Policies BE30, BE31, BE32, BE34 and NE20, will be a material consideration in the determination of any further applications. The site is also within the Marston Vale Strategy Area and the Forest of Marston Vale and Policies S5 and NE21 will apply.

POLICY E3
Land west of Elstow Bypass as shown on the Proposals Map shall be developed for Use Classes B1, B2 and B8 and to provide a park and ride facility. Key principles of development include:
i) the design, height, and orientation of buildings and the choice of materials and the extent and strength of internal and peripheral landscaping shall be appropriate to this prominent gateway site;
ii) the provision of footpaths and cycleways which link in a safe and convenient manner with adjacent residential and employment areas as part of an integrated network covering E3, E4 & E5, the Interchange Retail Park, rail access and the wider urban network;
iii) vehicular access to the employment area to be provided by a single access to the A6/Elstow Bypass and include any necessary on or off site improvement works as required by the Highway Authority in connection with both the employment and park and ride uses;
iv) existing wildlife features including the hedge on the eastern periphery and the copse to the north are to be retained and enhanced for nature conservation purposes;
v) contribution to the provision of public transport facilities and services to encourage more sustainable journey patterns, including making provision for a park and ride facility of 2 hectares to be dedicated to the highway authority; and,
vi) provision towards the implementation of the Marston Vale Strategy and the Forest of Marston Vale.

6.26 Two smaller sites on the other side of the railway in a key gateway location close to the Southern Bypass are also allocated for employment purposes. Planning permission has been granted by the County Council for a tidy tip in the northern section of this site E5 and this use will be encouraged.

POLICY E4
Land west of B530 as shown on the Proposals Map shall be developed for Use Classes B1, B2 and B8. Key principles of development include:
i) the design, height, and orientation of buildings and the choice of materials and the extent and strength of internal and peripheral landscaping shall be appropriate to this prominent gateway site;
ii) vehicular access to be provided from the B530 together with any necessary off-site improvements as required by the highway authority;
iii) the provision footpaths and cycleways which link in a safe and convenient manner with adjacent residential and employment areas as part of an integrated network covering
sites E3, E4, E5, the Interchange Retail Park, rail access and the wider urban network;
iv) provision towards the implementation of the Marston Vale Strategy and the Forest of Marston Vale; and
v) contribution to the provision of public transport facilities and services to encourage more sustainable journey patterns.
POLICY E5
Land east of B530 as shown on the Proposals Map shall be developed for Use Classes B1, B2 and B8. Key principles of development include:
i) the design, height, and orientation of buildings and the choice of materials and the extent and strength of internal and peripheral landscaping shall be appropriate to this prominent gateway site;
ii) vehicular access to be provided from a fifth arm to the A421/B530 roundabout together with any necessary off-site improvements as required by the highway authority;
iii) the retention of existing trees;
iv) the provision footpaths and cycleways which link in a safe and convenient manner with adjacent residential and employment areas as part of an integrated network covering sites E3, E4 & E5, the Interchange Retail Park, rail access and the wider urban network;
v) provision towards the implementation of the Marston Vale Strategy and the Forest of Marston Vale; and,
vi) contribution to the provision of public transport facilities and services to encourage more sustainable journey patterns.

6.28 In addition to these sites in and adjoining the urban area, development proposals affecting land west of Kempston (see Policy H7) and land north of Bromham Road (Cut Throat Lane) (see Policy H8) have an employment component.

EMPLOYMENT SITES IN THE SOUTH WEST BEDFORD CORRIDOR

6.29 The designation of employment sites in the strategic corridor as defined by the Structure Plan is required to expand the qualitative range of prime sites available to facilitate economic growth, to balance with housing allocations and to compensate for the long term down sizing of traditional local industries like brick making.

6.30 Land at the proposed intersection of the Southern and Western Bypasses known as Marsh Leys Farm is allocated in this plan since it provides an immediate high profile and quality site in a strategic location that is best placed to attract inward investment and help provide sustainable development opportunities balancing the areas of housing development close by. A business development here on the south western side of Bedford provides an opportunity to balance and extend the high quality provision afforded by Priory Business Park on the eastern side of the town, and provide an attractive landscaped setting for the location of further B1, B2, B8 businesses, at this strategic gateway location.

POLICY E7
Land at Marsh Leys Farm as shown on the Proposals Map shall be developed for Use Classes B1, B2 and B8 in a highly landscaped setting and incorporate the following key principles:
i) the design, height, and orientation of buildings, the choice of materials, and the extent and strength of internal, peripheral and off-site landscaping shall be appropriate to this prominent gateway site and shall take account of both the need to ensure a clear visual separation from the urban area of Kempston and future road proposals;
ii) vehicular access to be provided from the A421 together with any necessary off-site improvements as required by the highway authority. Any and all land required in this connection shall be dedicated to the highway authority on/prior to the grant of any planning permission. Prior to the occupation of the site for any non agricultural purpose, the developer shall commit sufficient resources to the highway authority to facilitate the dual carriageway improvement of the A421;
iii) the provision of footpaths and cycleways linking with the urban and other modal forms of transport in a safe and convenient manner and to improve access to the countryside;
iv) existing wildlife features including hedges, balancing ponds etc, shall be retained and enhanced for nature conservation purposes;
v) provision towards the implementation of the Marston Vale Strategy and the Forest of Marston Vale within the site;
vi) the site can accommodate a range, mix and distribution of development in terms of Use Classes B1, B2 and B8 consistent with other policies and criteria; and
vii) provision of enhanced access to the existing adjacent rail services.

6.31 Elstow Storage Depot is strategically located, under-used and part derelict. It is viewed by Innogy, the landowner, as having major long term development potential. Within the South West Bedford Strategic Corridor, the Structure Plan 2011 identifies a strategic housing allocation focused on this site which straddles the borough boundary with Mid Beds District. It is envisaged that development will be in the form of a new settlement comprising an appropriate balance of land uses including employment. In this connection policies BE3 and H14 should be referred to. A nominal figure of 11 hectares of new employment land has been given in Table E2 for the purposes of this Local Plan.

6.33 Close to the depot are the sites of two former brickworks long since demolished which need to be taken into account in the context of the new settlement. Whilst their locations would suggest an employment reuse, the nature of this and the way that they relate to the requirements of the existing minerals permissions, possible future landfill sites, the Elstow Storage Depot and emerging East -West Rail proposals need to be clarified before new permanent uses are permitted.

POLICY E9
The former site of the Coronation Brickworks shall be developed for Use Classes B1, B2 and B8 in accordance with the proposed Elstow Storage Depot development brief.
POLICY E10
The former site of the Elstow Brickworks shall be developed for Use Classes B1, B2 and B8 in accordance with the proposed Elstow Storage Depot development brief.

6.34 Other employment sites are proposed in relation to housing development proposals designated at Stewartby (see Policy H13 and Stewartby Inset to Proposals Map) and at land south of Fields Road Wootton (see Policy H11 and Wootton Inset). In the case of land south of Fields Road Wootton, leisure based employment uses may also be appropriate.

OTHER AREAS

6.35 Beyond the urban area and outside the Strategic the only major opportunity for employment development is at Thurleigh Airfield (see Fig 17). Following extensive public consultation the development brief for this site was adopted in July 1995 and substantial progress has already been made towards its implementation. Elsewhere a small site suitable for business use has been identified at Wilstead and this is shown on the inset to the Proposals Map.

POLICY E11
The Council will continue to support the re-use and development of Thurleigh Airfield in accordance with the adopted development brief and all proposals will be determined in the light of the following considerations:
i) the character and environment of the surrounding area are to be safeguarded;
ii) within areas identified in the brief, employment creating uses will be encouraged, particularly activities which can utilise the skills of the workforce and facilities currently available;
iii) existing floorspace should be utilised or demolished before replacement or new additional floorspace is created in order to avoid dereliction;
iv) a high quality employment area is to be created, by the appropriate use of size, form, massing, materials, location and design of development and associated landscaping.
v) the two main runways and the associated taxiways, together with other safeguarded areas should be reserved undeveloped to retain the aviation option during the plan period;
vi) any proposal involving flying or engine testing will be assessed in relation to i) above; the hours of operation, the volume of aircraft movements and any night flying will be tightly controlled; major passenger services including those associated with scheduled and inclusive tour services will not be acceptable, although it is accepted that small numbers of passengers will be included with business related general aviation; and a full community and environmental evaluation shall be carried out to assess the scale and nature of any benefits arising;
vii) vehicular access shall be obtained only from the A6 via the C26 and shall incorporate off-site improvements and provisions as required by the highway authorities. Measures shall also be included to safeguard nearby settlements from additional traffic nuisance, to make provision for public transport, and the provision of pedestrian and cycle routes. All access to the Airfield (other than emergency and authorised vehicles) shall be via the existing main gate;
viii) a satisfactory and comprehensive form of development is to be secured, and any fragmentation of the site and piecemeal development will strongly be opposed; and,
ix) planning applications made in relation to the use or development of the airfield shall be in a form facilitating reasonable control to be exercised over such matters as the provision for site maintenance, security and other matters referred to in the adopted brief.

6.36 Thurleigh Airfield is no longer in use by the Ministry of Defence and has been sold. In anticipation of a new use needing to be found for the Airfield the Council has prepared and adopted a planning brief for the site. The brief establishes a number of criteria based on this policy. It encourages selected employment use for up to 2,000 employees and seeks to retain an aviation option up to the year 2015. Acceptable aviation activities could include aircraft maintenance, air freight, business related general aviation and pilot training with aircraft movements limited to 22,000 movements a year. Proposals for night flying will be considered having full regard for environmental implications. Where appropriate the Council will expect a noise budget to accompany any planning application. Scheduled and inclusive tour services are not considered an acceptable use.

EXISTING EMPLOYMENT AREAS

6.37 The major employment areas in the town have been identified on the Proposals Map. These are areas where the dominant established use is employment (the B1, B2, B8 range) or sites which have outstanding planning permissions for business uses. It is these sites which have provided for the majority of local employment and many new jobs in recent years. A failure to maintain this stock would erode the range of sites and premises available as such sites can provide the opportunity for reinvestment in small units either by rationalisation and sub-division or by renewal, thereby adding to the range of accommodation available to local businesses.

6.38 In addition, the maintenance of a stock of employment land within the urban area makes an important contribution to both the well being and the vitality of Bedford and Kempston, offering the choice to live and work in the same area and the potential for reducing long distance commuting. The loss of such sites would therefore diminish the asset base of the town, adversely affect the balance of mixed land uses and offset the benefit of the additional allocations made by virtue of Policy E1.

6.39 The importance of sites which have planning permission for B1, B2, and B8 uses is that they provide a stock of land for future business investment. Their protection is important in seeking to provide a broad range of employment sites in quality locations. Reference should be made to policies H24 and E19 which also refer to the potential loss of employment floorspace.

6.40 For these reasons the Borough Council is concerned to maintain the presumption against the loss of further employment land. The Borough Council recognises however that the nature and location of some of the oldest employment areas may give rise to problems of amenity, and may in exceptional circumstances warrant a relaxation of this policy. In such cases the Council will need to be satisfied that a change of use and/or relocation is the only way to resolve the problem, and that a specific community benefit can be achieved as a direct result. It is not intended that policy E12 should frustrate the plans of substantial existing employers wishing to relocate within Bedford.

6.41 In cases where the redevelopment of existing sites takes place for new employment uses the Council will seek to achieve specific environmental benefits.

POLICY E12
The Borough Council will not grant planning permission for uses outside the B1, B2, B8 range on existing employment sites or on sites with existing planning permission for such uses, except in exceptional circumstances and where specific community and environmental benefits can be demonstrated and achieved.
POLICY E13
Where redevelopment of an existing employment site for new employment uses takes place the Council will seek to ensure that any proposal is of an acceptable standard. The Council may seek improvements in the following:
i) design and layout of buildings including internal layout and relationship to adjoining uses;
ii) improved access arrangements including provision for walking, cycling and public transport;
iii) ensuring that all parking requirements can be met on site;
iv) improved landscaping and screening.

6.42 The use of legal agreements may be necessary and appropriate to secure such benefits.

OFFICE DEVELOPMENT

6.43 In its role as an administrative centre, Bedford provides a range of office jobs. Office development includes High Street type offices under Class A2 known as financial and professional services, in-town speculative offices and B1 type offices found in industrial estates and business parks. The balance of these office types is important in its influence on the vitality of the town centre and travel to work patterns.

6.44 Town centre offices bring people into the town centre giving support to shops and contributing to the vitality of the town. The balance of A2 type offices within the primary shopping frontage must however be controlled and this aspect is considered in more detail in the Shopping chapter of the plan. In the primary shopping area of the town centre any additional non A2 office provision should be a part of a mixed use scheme rather than in the form of free standing offices. The Borough Council will therefore encourage mixed use schemes in the primary shopping area but resist applications for future free standing schemes. This issue is covered by Policy TC9.

THE NEEDS OF SMALL BUSINESSES

6.45 Development trends in recent years have shown both the loss to residential use of many small workshops and other premises suitable for businesses, and the investment in business floorspace in the form of large units on industrial estates. This has the effect of reducing the provision of units suitable for small and start-up businesses. The Borough Council is concerned to ease this situation by defining its policy for working from home and for small businesses in residential areas, and by increasing the provision and availability of small business space.

6.46 Start-up businesses often require small low cost premises etc. There is a need within the policy framework to create a seedbed for new business initiatives to flourish. Many small businesses are started by people working in their own homes and technological innovations are likely to increase the incidence of homeworking. This does not necessarily require planning permission. Permission is not normally needed where the use of part of a dwelling-house for business purposes does not change the overall character of the property’s use as a single dwelling. Those considering working from home are advised to seek the advice of the local planning authority at an early stage.

6.47 Once the business use of the property ceases to be ancillary to its use as a single dwelling because the business has grown and the use intensified, a material change of use is likely to have taken place for which planning permission will be required. The Borough Council will ensure that such uses are effectively controlled and will be prepared to refuse planning permission or to exercise enforcement powers where appropriate. In these circumstances it may be necessary for the business to move to more suitable premises.

6.48 In new housing developments there is the opportunity to introduce house types specifically designed to allow for working from home.

POLICY E14
Within new residential development, the Borough Council will encourage the provision of dwellings suitable for working from home.
POLICY E15
Planning permission will be granted for compatible business/employment uses in residential areas except where:
i) the proposal would have an adverse effect on residential amenity;
ii) the scale and nature of the proposed employment use of the site would be incompatible with the residential nature of the area;
iii) the activity would create noise, vibration or air quality incompatible with the residential environment;
iv) there would be excessive traffic generated or inadequate access and parking provision; or
v) the proposal relates to the complete use of a single dwelling and the loss of residential accommodation would be contrary to Policy H39

6.49 In most cases planning permission for business uses in residential areas will be conditional and will seek to control such matters as the intensification of the activity, hours of operation etc, in the interests of avoiding neighbour nuisance and protecting residential amenity. In order to encourage enterprise whilst providing a mechanism to monitor and control the impact of business activities, it may be appropriate to grant temporary consents for the establishment of new business uses. The Council will seek to ensure that as businesses outgrow a residential location, a range of alternative premises is available for them to move in to. With this and other demands in mind, the Borough Council is promoting mixed use developments (see also Policies BE3 & BE4), and the introduction of small scale employment sites.

6.50 The creation of job opportunities in tandem with substantial housing schemes in the form of mixed development is important in terms of both promoting local economic growth and achieving more sustainable forms of development. The Borough Council’s response to this is in a number of occasions to include employment requirements within major housing allocations.

6.50a A range of employment provision is necessary to meet the needs of the local economy. The provision of premises suitable for small scale business will be encouraged, as these can form the seedbed of a buoyant economy. Where it considers affordability to be a material planning concern, the Council may seek the ability of initial occupants of such accommodation to pass on any negotiated low cost provision to subsequent occupiers by means of a planning condition or planning obligations.

POLICY E16
The Borough Council will encourage and, where it considers appropriate, negotiate for the provision of premises suitable to accommodate small business as part of the development of sites allocated for employment use.

EMPLOYMENT IN THE RURAL AREA

6.51 The Government’s advice in its recent White Paper and planning guidance is based on ensuring both rural prosperity and the protection and enhancement of the character of the countryside. Development should both benefit economic activity and maintain and enhance the environment. The provision of jobs in the rural area is vital to the maintenance of a healthy rural economy and is important if villages are to become more selfsustaining. The range of employment activities which can take place in the rural area is expanding with the development of farm diversification, rural tourism, rural sports and recreation and tele-working. Rural businesses are to be encouraged in their efficiency and competitiveness. As this happens however, the character of the countryside and villages must be protected as environmental quality provides an economic opportunity and contributes to wealth creation.

6.52 In villages the introduction of employment can bring jobs to areas which are in danger of becoming dormitory. Major development in locations not well served by public transport or readily accessible to a local residential workforce will not be permitted. Development for employment purposes within the SPAs will be encouraged but must conform to the criteria for development within SPAs. Acceptable development is likely to be small in scale and sensitive to village character. On-site expansion will be allowed subject to criteria in the following policies.

POLICY E17
The Borough Council will grant planning permission for business/employment uses within Settlement Policy Areas where:
i) development is sensitively related to existing development and does not have an adverse impact on the form and character of the village;
ii) important open spaces and gaps are safeguarded;
iii) development is related in scale, design and building materials to existing development in the village and contributes to the sense of local identity;
iv) there is no adverse impact on residential amenity in terms of noise, vibration, smell, safety and traffic generation;
v) satisfactory vehicular access and parking provision can be achieved; and,
vi) where a proposal involves the conversion of buildings, Policy E18 will apply.

6.53 Outside of the Settlement Policy Areas the development strategy of the plan is one of restraint. However, there may be opportunities for sensitive employment development outside the villages through the re-use of existing rural buildings. It is imperative that any such developments do not have an adverse impact on the surrounding environment, and are sympathetic to the rural character of the area, respecting local building styles and materials. Policy BE28 relating to agricultural buildings may also apply.

6.54 The conversion of buildings currently in industrial or commercial use to dwellings is likely to have an adverse impact on local economic activity and therefore would not be permitted unless the residential conversion is part of a scheme for business use. Conversion of a building previously used for industrial or commercial purposes (and indeed agricultural buildings) often involves extensive alteration, and/ or the creation of a residential curtilage, which can have a harmful effect on the character of the building and on the countryside and would not be allowed.

POLICY E18
Planning permission will be permitted for the re-use or adaptation of existing buildings in the rural area for commercial, industrial, tourism and recreational uses provided:
i) the building(s) can be satisfactorily adapted or converted without materially affecting their character and architectural integrity;
ii) the proposal does not require any substantial extensions or new buildings, which in themselves would increase the impact of the site/use in the surrounding countryside;
iii) the proposal would have no adverse impact on the surrounding countryside or local communities by virtue of noise and disturbance, air pollution or traffic generation and movements;
iv) the buildings are of a permanent and substantial construction; and,
v) the scale and design of the proposal is compatible with its location.
POLICY E19
The Borough Council will resist proposals which would lead to the loss of sites used for industrial/commercial or other employment generating uses in the countryside or rural settlements unless:
i) the site use impinges substantially on residential amenity, or
ii) the site use causes significant highway or traffic problems, or
iii) there are adverse environmental effects.

6.55 Within the Borough there are a number of areas where employment uses are established in the open countryside. On such sites where the principle of employment has been established it is possible for incremental intensification of uses on the site to take place providing that the ensuing impact has no adverse influence on the rural character of the area. The Council will therefore seek to ensure that the amenity and character of the surrounding areas are protected.

POLICY E20
The Borough Council will permit additional employment uses and the expansion of existing uses on employment sites in the countryside and in rural settlements, unless the cumulative impact of the development would be unacceptable to the amenity and character of the area having regard to the impact of additional noise, air pollutants, built form and traffic generation.

6.55a The role of the Wyboston Lakes complex as a regional centre for training and leisure based activities in a parkland setting adjacent to the A1 trunk road is recognised. The Borough Council will continue to provide support to this development consistent with criteria for the impact of development in Policy BE30.

FARM DIVERSIFICATION

6.56 As part of a move towards a more sustainable economy which supports the rural areas, some employment uses within the countryside will be encouraged. It is recognised that agriculture has to evolve with changing markets and technology. Therefore diversification of farm enterprises will be encouraged as a response to changing agricultural needs where they respect the rural character of the surroundings.

POLICY E21
The Borough Council will support the diversification of farm enterprises subject to the following criteria:
i) the primary use of the farmholding is and remains agricultural
ii) the proposal retains or provides additional employment;
iii) there is no detrimental effect on the landscape, wildlife, archaeology, amenity and character of the area;
iv) access and parking provision is adequate and acceptable; and,
v) there is no permanent loss of Grade 1, 2 or 3a land;
vi) the level and type of traffic generated is compatible with the rural location and the local road network.

HORSE AND EQUESTRIAN ACTIVITIES

6.57 Keeping and riding horses can help provide new opportunities for employment in rural areas. However high standards of design and construction of necessary buildings and the use of agricultural land are required to ensure no adverse impact on the countryside. A high standard of maintenance is also essential to prevent a harmful impact on the environment.

POLICY E22
Proposals for horse related non-residential development will be permitted provided that the proposal:
i) would not have an adverse impact on the character and appearance of the countryside;
ii) would not be detrimental to the amenity of neighbours properties;
iii) ensures a safe and acceptable form of access;
iv) is of a high standard of design and construction (including details of stabling, tack rooms, feedrooms, fencing, manure storage and disposal); and,
v) will not cause an adverse impact on the wildlife of the area.

TOURISM

6.58 The Council actively supports and encourages tourism within the Borough. The Borough sees strong links between its role in economic development and tourism. Through its Tourism and Business Tourism Strategy it is seeking to encourage activities which provide employment and generate income in the local economy.

6.59 Bedford's main assets as a tourist centre are its strong historical associations with John Bunyan, John Howard and Glenn Miller and its attractive river and embankment which form the location for the River Festival, a major visitor attraction which takes place on alternate years. The Borough also has unique connections with the airship industry at Cardington and many picturesque villages with historical associations.

6.60 The Local Plan aims to facilitate and encourage tourism development including the improvement of existing provision for tourists while providing a vehicle for managing the impact of tourism development.

6.61 The key issues which the Local Plan must address are:

1 Balancing economic development with the environmental protection necessary to maintain the tourism resource

2 Balancing the needs of visitors and local residents.

TOURISM DEVELOPMENT

6.62 In general terms the Local Plan as a whole seeks to create a framework for investment in tourism through the following:

– preserving and enhancing the historic nature of the town centre;

– supporting the provision of high-quality shopping in a compact retail core;

– supporting the development of art and entertainment venues in the Borough;

– improving interpretation of the Borough’s environment and buildings;

– stimulating the use of the River Great Ouse for visitors throughout the Borough;

– seeking to make the traffic system in the town centre user friendly to visitors;

– preserving the character of the rural area;

– encouraging tourism development which comes forward through the Marston Vale Strategy and Forest Plan.

6.63 Future tourist attractions should make a positive contribution to both economy and environment. Key principles will be the need to ensure that development contributes to environmental quality, respects environmental resources and takes full account of the need for visitor management.

POLICY E23
Planning permission for development which broadens and develops the tourism industry will be granted where the proposal is of overall benefit to the Borough, except where the proposal would detract unacceptably from the quality of the built and natural environment, or where it would cause unacceptable loss of amenity in terms of noise or traffic generation, or conflict with the other policies and proposals of the plan.

VISITOR INFRASTRUCTURE

6.64 Visitor attractions need to be supported by the necessary visitor infrastructure. This includes elements such as signposting and transport infrastructure. Signage should be well designed and rationalised to reduce visual clutter and prevent interference to highway safety. The Borough will support improvements to signposting and visitor information including the display of historic plaques. In addition there is a need to provide a coach park in Bedford to improve access to the town centre for tourists (see Policy T19).

POLICY E24
The Borough Council will support the provision of signposts and tourist information in the town centre and at points of interest in the rural area subject to criteria of design and highway safety.

VISITOR ACCOMMODATION

6.65 The availability of a range of styles and prices of accommodation helps to broaden opportunities for tourism. In addition, it is important that the type of accommodation matches the type of tourist opportunities which are available. At present the Borough lacks budget-type hotels, camping and caravan facilities, as well as four and five star hotels. These types of facilities will be encouraged in order to support the opportunities which exist to develop business tourism and short breaks. In addition, the Borough also wishes to encourage the provision of conference facilities to enhance the development of business tourism in the town.

POLICY E25
In the urban area applications which broaden the range of tourist accommodation, especially for the business tourism and short break markets, will be permitted except where the proposals would have an adverse effect on the character and amenity of the town and residential areas or would create traffic or parking problems.

RURAL TOURISM

6.66 Rural tourism can make an important contribution to rural economic activity and supports the rural labour market, but its development should not destroy the asset on which its popularity depends. The Borough has several attractive small villages which may provide scope for holiday accommodation in the rural area. Any new build accommodation should take place in villages and in the context of Policy E17. In addition, in the open countryside rural buildings may be appropriately adapted for holiday accommodation. Any such proposals will be considered against Policy E18.

6.67 Caravan sites can also provide further tourist accommodation in the rural area. There are a number of small caravan club sites (for up to five pitches) in the Borough. Larger sites require planning permission and any new sites should be sensitively sited to avoid loss of amenity or rural character. It should be noted that the storage of unoccupied caravans during the winter months on seasonal touring sites requires planning permission.

POLICY E26
Planning permission for touring caravan sites will only be permitted where:
i) the site can be easily accessed from a major highway route;
ii) the site is not visually intrusive in the landscape;
iii) the site causes no loss of character or amenity to villages or rural buildings;
iv) the proposal is accompanied by a comprehensive landscape plan; and,
v) the scale of the site is appropriate to the location.

STATIC CARAVANS AND LEISURE CHALETS

6.68 Static caravans and leisure/recreational chalets are more permanent features of the countryside and are to be treated in the same way as residential property in the countryside, therefore the normal rural restraint policies will apply.

POLICY E27
Proposals for new static caravans and leisure/recreational chalets will only be permitted in the context of the rural settlement policies.

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