Core Strategy Issues & Options

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6. THEME 2: PROSPERITY FOR ALL

Key Issue:

6.1 What are the most effective and appropriate means of increasing the income available to local people, including via a range of career and learning opportunities, to support improvements in people's standards of living?

Context

6.2 Some 23,200 people are employed in Rother, of which a high proportion, 40% are in part-time jobs. There is also a high proportion of self-employed, equivalent to 15% of all economically active people.

6.3 Employment in Rother has increased modestly over the last 10 years, mostly in the late 1990s, falling back a little since 2002.Between the 1991 and 2001 Censuses, the level of out-commuting has increased by a third and net out-commuting by 10%.The main workplaces of commuters are Hastings, followed by Tunbridge Wells, central London, Wealden district and Eastbourne.

6.4 Jobs in the District itself are mainly in the service sectors, notably public administration. There are relatively few jobs in growth or high-tech businesses.

6.5 The vast majority of businesses are, not surprisingly, small. It follows that income generation into the area is likely to be limited. In fact, East Sussex as a whole has the lowest level of 'Gross Value Added', which is an indicator of wealth creation, in the region.

6.6 Local earnings are, on average, correspondingly low, although these are boosted by the many people employed outside the District.

Figure 3: Average Gross Weekly Earnings, 2004

 

Residents

Employees

%

difference

Rother

�502

�411

18%

East Sussex

�499

�445

11%

South East

�571

�536

6%

Source: ESCC and Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings 2004

6.7 Tourism is an income generator, and this benefits from inherent assets of the area's heritage, countryside and coast.

6.8 Businesses cite lack of suitable sites and buildings, poor accessibility to markets and low skills availability among the main constraints.A key factor is the weak commercial property market, consequently low development values and investment interest.

6.9 Significant job creation is planned as part of the existing major mixed-use allocations to the north-east of Bexhill, but this is dependent upon the Link Road.

6.10 In rural areas the economy is also very diverse. Information technology allows people to operate many businesses from rural locations, and there is high level of occupancy in rural units.

6.11 At the same time, farming continues to undergo economic pressures and reforms. It still accounts for some 800 jobs and, moreover, contributes vitally to the character and appearance of the countryside.

6.12 Demographic trends suggest an additional 3,000 people in Rother's workforce by 2026.

Strategy Directions

6.13 The background of low level economic performance and need for further jobs are recognised in the draft South East Plan. Economic regeneration is seen as the priority for the Sussex Coast area and especially for Hastings and Bexhill.

6.14 Continuing the work of the Hastings and Bexhill Task Force, the local regeneration agency, is seen as vital to improving the demonstrably low levels of economic activity, jobs and earnings, as there is no obvious catalyst for an economic turn-around.

The Hastings and Bexhill Task Force is made up of the regional development agency, the Government Office, three local authorities and the local MPs. Its role is specifically to stimulate regeneration in the area.

Through its executive, SeaSpace, it is centrally involved in improving local education and skills through the creation of University Centre Hastings and, adjacent to the new Hastings Railway station, a major redevelopment which will include a new sixth form college. Also, it is developing the business base in relation to media and other knowledge-based businesses, as well as bringing business sites forward.

6.15 The Task Force can have a key role in both developing business sites in Bexhill and in delivering regeneration schemes in both Rye and central Bexhill.

6.16 Given that substantial inward investment is unlikely, then providing an environment for local businesses to flourish, in both urban and rural contexts, is the more important.

6.17 Even so, there is considered to be some prospect of knowledge-based sectors, both moving to the area as well as expanding locally, where location is more concerned with quality of life than transport links.

6.18 Existing planning policy seeks to maintain a stock of employment sites and premises in the face of pressure from housing development. This may continue to be necessary given the lack of new accommodation being built.

6.19 At the same time, as the stock ages and existing sites become more constrained, it is important to have modern units available. Mixed-use schemes can help to achieve viable commercial developments.

6.20 Given the income flow generated by people working outside the area, as well as the wider range of jobs available elsewhere, commuting to larger centres of employment, especially by public transport, can be seen as positive.

6.21 There are disbenefits in over-reliance on distant jobs though, in the pressure on transport capacity and the environment, as well as increasing the "peripherality" of local firms.

6.22 Further consideration will be given to the overall scale of business land requirements, the type, size and quality, of units and any particular unmet local needs. The views of employers will be especially important.

6.23 There is evidence of demand for medium sized premises (10,000-20,000sq.ft. locally). This may include service and distribution businesses, especially related to Bexhill and Hastings, as these are the foci of population.

6.24 At the smaller scale, the need for more incubator space and small units should be further explored, as may the prospect of "live-work" units.

6.25 While many businesses can operate successfully in rural locations, it raises the question of what further encouragement should be given to businesses that can positively conserve and enhance the character of the countryside. This can cover woodland-related activities as well as agriculture, horticulture and indeed viticulture.

6.26 The implications of tourism trends need to be further assessed. This is an important sector in both Rye and Battle and in some villages.

6.27 The best means of developing key attractions like the De La Warr Pavilion and Camber Sands, and of realising the potential of the countryside of the High Weald, including for growing self-catering sector, should be explored. It is considered that initiatives should "work with the grain" of the environment.

6.28 Supporting the significant role of part-time working will mean increasing opportunities for childcare and travel by public transport, as well as training and re-training.

6.29 Longer-term economic prosperity depends especially on access to relevant and high quality learning and skills development. The establishment of University College Hastings may provide springboard for a more qualified workforce, while supporting achievement in the new sixth form colleges, and the secondary schools, will be important for businesses and in retaining and attracting students and their families.

(31) Question 5 - What are the most effective and appropriate means of increasing the income available to local people, including via a range of career and learning opportunities, to support improvements in people's standards of living?

In considering this, you are invited to comment specifically on:

  • What are the main means of ensuring prosperity?
  • What are the barriers to business growth?
  • What unmet needs are there for business land and premises?
  • Should the Strategy look to reduce out-commuting?
  • What are most appropriate ways of promoting sustainable tourism?
  • How should land-based industries and others with direct links to maintaining local distinctiveness be encouraged?
  • In what way can the working environment support part-time working?
  • What are the needs of the educational sector in helping to continue to improve education and skill levels?
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