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4. Economic Activity

4.1. The policies on economic activity have the following objectives:

• To ensure that provision is made for enough land to meet the structure plan requirement and enable the expansion of existing firms and the introduction of new employment;
• To ensure that a range of employment opportunities is available at key locations across the district and that alternative employment exists other than in the concentration on the airport at Stansted;
• To enable opportunities for local employment close to where people live, which may potentially reduce travel to work;
• To ensure that development is accessible to all; and
• To help diversify the economy in the rural area and provide alternative income for farm based businesses.

Location of Future Employment Land

4.2. The increase in the amount of land for business uses in Uttlesford’s two largest urban areas is determined in the structure plan. It requires that the total will increase by 16 hectares by 2011. In 2000, employment areas in Great Dunmow and Saffron Walden totalled 46.76 hectares. All these figures are net site areas, and exclude major distributor roads and strategic landscape buffers. This local plan indicates where land is proposed for development so as to achieve this increase in land for business uses. The total area proposed exceeds 16 hectares by 1.35 hectares. Some existing employment land is proposed for redevelopment by housing, and this has to be replaced.

4.3. A range of sites is proposed to meet the needs of the high tech sector, with its greater potential growth in the longer term, as well as meeting the needs of office, traditional manufacturing and distribution sectors.

4.4. Great Dunmow has reasonable potential for employment growth. Key factors are access to the trunk road network, access to London and Stansted Airport and an above average living environment. The size of the local economy is small, however, and past growth has been sporadic. These are limiting factors.

4.5. The site committed for a business park at Great Dunmow continues to be an appropriate proposal. It is on undeveloped land but there is limited potential to accommodate employment development on previously developed land in Uttlesford.

4.6. Saffron Walden enjoys similar advantages to Great Dunmow along with proximity to Cambridge and existing high tech employment. However there are few suitable sites, which would not impinge on the historic town environment or the surrounding open countryside. A small site is proposed as an extension to the existing Business Centre, off Elizabeth Way.

4.7. The proposed extension to the Stansted Distribution Centre will bring a small parcel of despoiled land into productive use as an extension to an existing employment site.

4.8. Great Chesterford is one of four key rural settlements. It is the one that has the potential for further village employment growth with its existing high tech and other employment and a suitable site with good accessibility, including public transport.

4.9. Land at Stansted Airport is identified specifically for development directly related to or associated with the airport. Industrial and commercial development unrelated to the airport will not be permitted on site. It is not included within the employment land proposals for the expansion of existing firms and the introduction of new employment because of these restrictions on its use.

4.10. In order to meet the Structure Plan requirement a net increase of 16.46 hectares is proposed within urban areas and near Stansted Airport. In addition a new site at Great Chesterford is proposed making an overall provision of 17.35 hectares.

Policy E1 – Distribution of Employment Land

Provision is made for a net increase of about 17.35 hectares of land for business, general industry, storage or distribution development within the plan area, excluding land within the Stansted Airport boundary.

The following sites, defined on the Proposals Map, are proposed for employment development as indicated in the following table:

Site Site area (net in hectares)
Great Dunmow Business Park> 9.60
Land adjoining Saffron Business Centre, Elizabeth Close, Saffron Walden 1.00
Thaxted Road, Saffron Walden 3.76
London Road, Great Chesterford 0.89
Stansted Distribution Centre extension 2.1

Safeguarding Employment Land

4.11. In addition to proposing new sites for business uses, the plan needs to protect key existing employment land. The strength of the residential land market has led to proposals for the residential redevelopment of some employment sites. A framework is needed to assess whether such proposals should be permitted. The Plan proposes that the main sites in the larger settlements, important smaller scale sites in the key rural settlements and the Stansted Distribution Centre should be protected from such market pressures to ensure that there continue to be employment opportunities available locally across Uttlesford. The number of people employed on a site may be material, but employment density on a particular site can vary considerably over time, up or down.

Policy E2 – Safeguarding Employment Land

The following key employment areas identified on the Proposals Map will be safeguarded from redevelopment or change of use to other land-uses:

a) Existing employment areas of 1.0 hectares and over located within the main urban areas of Great Dunmow, Saffron Walden and Stansted Mountfitchet;
b) Existing employment areas of 0.5 hectares and over in the key rural settlements of Elsenham, Great Chesterford, Takeley and Thaxted;
c) The sites identified in Policy E1;
d) The site at Chesterford Park identified in Policy S5.
e) Stansted Distribution Centre at Start Hill, Great Hallingbury
f) Elsenham Industrial Estate

The development of employment land for other uses outside the key employment areas will be permitted if the employment use has been abandoned or the present use harms the character or amenities of the surrounding area.

Access to Workplaces

4.12. All development for employment purposes, whether new build, conversion or extension need to be accessible to all, to ensure social inclusion.

Policy E3 Access to workplaces

Developments that would result in the provision of jobs will be required to include the highest standards of accessibility and inclusion for all people regardless of disability, age or gender.

Businesses in the Countryside

4.13. Farming continues to be important as an economic activity in the countryside locally. The land is highly productive for crops. However, farm businesses increasingly need to find ways of diversifying so that they develop new sources of income to offset the long term trend of falling prices for crops. These will include non-agricultural activities. The scale and character of these activities needs to be sensitive to the character of their setting and protect or enhance it.

4.14. Alternative uses of farmland might include farm-based attractions, field sports areas and camping and touring caravan sites, equestrian centres, garden centres, golf courses, stud farms and livery stables and water based activities. Policy S7 says there will be strict control on new building. Existing buildings should be re-used, where possible, to provide any accommodation needed in association with alternative uses.

Policy E4 - Farm Diversification: Alternative use of Farmland

Alternative uses for agricultural land will be permitted if all the following criteria are met:

a) The development includes proposals for landscape and nature conservation enhancement;
b) The development would not result in a significant increase in noise levels or other adverse impacts beyond the holding;
c) The continued viability and function of the agricultural holding would not be harmed;
d) The development would not place unacceptable pressures on the surrounding rural road network (in terms of traffic levels, road safety countryside character and amenity).

4.15. Another possibility is to look at the potential for re-use of rural buildings, including non-agricultural buildings. Animals protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and its amendments may well actively occupy barns and other structures.

Policy E5 – Re-Use of Rural Buildings

The re-use and adaptation of rural buildings for business uses, small scale retail outlets, leisure uses or for tourist accommodation will be permitted in the countryside, including the Metropolitan Green Belt, the Countryside Protection Zone and beyond, if all the following criteria are met:

a) The buildings are of a permanent and substantial construction;
b) They are capable of conversion without major reconstruction or significant extension;
c) The development would protect or enhance the character of the countryside, its amenity value and its biodiversity and not result in a significant increase in noise levels or other adverse impacts;
d) The development would not place unacceptable pressures on the surrounding rural road network (in terms of traffic levels, road safety countryside character and amenity).

Homeworking

4.16. Many small businesses are started by people working in their own homes and information and communication technology is likely to increase the incidence of home-working. This could help address the issue of unsustainable journey to work patterns. A site on Sampford Road, Thaxted has been specifically identified for home/work units. However home-working does not necessarily require planning permission. Permission is not normally required where the use of part of a home for business purposes does not change the overall character of the property's use as a dwelling.

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