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9. Existing Employment Sites

9.1 In pursuit of sustainable development, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) explains that the planning system has an economic role to play in contributing to a strong, responsive and competitive economy by ensuring that sufficient land of the right type is available in the right place and at the right time to support growth. The NPPF requires planning to encourage the effective use of land that has been previously developed, focusing significant development in sustainable locations. Whilst the Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan and the Allocations and Designations Local Plan were prepared before the NPPF was published, their approach towards securing new employment land and maintaining an appropriate stock of existing employment sites is not at odds with the aims and objectives of national policy.

9.2 New employment sites are identified in Chapter 3 of this Plan and are shown on the Policies Map.

9.3 As well as identifying new sites to support employment growth the Council is keen to maximise the potential of existing brownfield employment sites for sustainable employment use. The identification of existing employment sites in this plan helps to promote their availability for employment purposes and gives a context within which new allocations are made.

9.4 It would be impractical to identify and designate all existing class B1, B2 and B8 employment sites in the borough so the designation is restricted to the larger sites and clusters in both the urban and rural parts of the borough. The location of the clusters reflects the fact that much of the existing supply outside of the town centre can be found along the urban railway corridors, on the edge of the town where the older industrial estates lie and along the south west corridor in the Marston Vale. In addition there are existing employment sites in the Rural Policy Area at Thurleigh Airfield, Twinwoods Business Park, Colworth Park and to the east of the borough on the southern edge of St Neots.

9.5 The clusters shown on the Policies Map are:

  • Manton Lane Industrial Area, Bedford
  • Elms/Viking Industrial Area, Bedford
  • Brunel Road/Barkers Lane, Bedford
  • Priory Business Park/Cross Park/G Park, Bedford
  • Mile Road/Windsor Road, Bedford
  • Fenlake/Kingfisher Business Park, Bedford
  • Ampthill Road/College Street/Progress Park/Interchange, Bedford/Kempston
  • Woburn Road Industrial Area/Marsh Leys, Kempston
  • Stewartby Brickworks, Stewartby
  • Coronation Brickworks, Kempston Hardwick
  • Wixams/Watson Road, Wixams
  • Twinwoods Business Park, Milton Ernest
  • Colworth Park, Sharnbrook
  • Thurleigh Airfield Business Park, Thurleigh
  • Phoenix Park, St Neots
  • Allington Road Industrial Estate/Little Barford Power Station, St Neots.

9.6 In some cases the designated areas are also the subject of other policies and guidance. For example, at Thurleigh Airfield, the designation is supplemented by a saved policy (E11) in the Bedford Borough Local Plan 2002 and a development brief (adopted as Supplementary Planning Guidance) that explain which parts of the airfield are suitable for new or continued employment development. This guidance will be reviewed as part of the next Local Plan in order to give up to date and effective guidance on the future of Thurleigh Airfield. The brief will be prepared in co-operation with landowners and the local community. Similarly saved Policy E9 and the adopted Elstow Storage Depot Development Brief remain relevant considerations for the designated land at the former Coronation Brickworks.

9.7 The designation recognises the current use of the site and does not imply that intensification or an extension to the site for employment uses will be supported. Any such proposals will be considered against relevant adopted policy which at the time of the adoption of this Plan is saved Local Plan 2002 Policy E20.

9.8 Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan Policy CP11 supports the conversion of existing ‘B’ use class employment land and buildings to other uses where it can be shown that it is no longer necessary to retain the ‘B’ class use. In accordance with the NPPF paragraph 51 such a justification may be based on an identified need for housing in an area but such decisions must also take into account any strong economic reasons that justify the retention of the employment use.

9.9 Within employment clusters the predominant use is B1, B2 and B8 but the Council acknowledges that some uses outside the ‘B’ use class will be present and this is evidenced in the audit undertaken as part of the Bedford Borough Employment Land Study. It is important to clarify that Policy CP11 will only apply to B1, B2 or B8 uses. It will not apply to sites or buildings in other use classes that are located within employment designations. Policy CP11 will also apply equally to those B1, B2 and B8 sites that are outside designated employment areas.

9.10 Through economic development activities the Council is pro-active in promoting the availability of employment sites and land, for example in its publication ‘Strategic Sites for Business’ and the website www.investinbedford.co.uk. The details of both new and existing employment sites are included in order to assist the growth of businesses already within the borough and to attract inward investment.

9.11 In relation to Core Strategy and Rural Issues Plan Policy CP11, the Council has had frequent requests to explain how one might show that the retention of an employment site is unnecessary. The answer will vary from site to site and it is for the promoter of any change of use to make a robust case. However, usually the site/premises are vacant and marketing has taken place to attempt to secure a new occupier. The submission of a marketing report can help to make a case for change by demonstrating that there is a lack of interest in the continued use of the buildings and/or site for employment purposes either in their existing condition or following re-development. In order to assist the presentation of appropriate material, the Council has developed a pro-forma and guidance note for assessing the robustness of marketing campaigns. These are found at Appendix 1 to the Plan.

9.12 Completion of the form itself is not mandatory for planning applications where a change of use resulting in the loss of employment space is involved; a report in a different format would also be sufficient to enable the submission of a valid application. However, the pro-forma and the guidance notes identify the type of material that is expected to be submitted if the case that is being made for the loss of employment space relies on marketing evidence. The purpose of including the pro-forma in the Plan is to assist the timely submission of appropriately detailed information and to help guide the scope of marketing campaigns to enable that information to be submitted.

Figure 13

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