Proposed Submission Core Strategy

Ended on the 11 November 2011
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Scope and Issues

(1) 16.1 National policies for sustainable economic growth are contained in Planning Policy Statement 4. There is also a strong emphasis on addressing the County’s and Rother district’s economic weaknesses in the ‘Integrated Sustainable Community Strategy for East Sussex’.

(1) 16.2 The economic weaknesses of the district reflect relatively low skill levels and average earnings, especially in the dominant service sectors. Also, the number of Vat-registered firms is relatively small, and has seen only marginal net growth over the last 10 years.

(1) 16.3 There is a high reliance on jobs outside the district, with net out-commuting of 5,824 workers (2001), equivalent to 17.2% of the workforce. At the same time, a higher proportion of people work at or from home than in any other district in the South East.

(1) 16.4 Hastings is the centre of the labour market area covering all but the north-western part of the district (which is more oriented towards Tunbridge Wells). It is the main destination of commuting flows. However, it is particularly weak in economic terms; it is identified as one of the 20 the most deprived districts in the country, with relatively low educational achievement and skill levels

(1) 16.5 Further details of the condition of the local economy, workforce and jobs forecasts, and the demand and supply of employment land are contained in an ‘Employment Strategy and Land Review’ prepared jointly with Hastings Borough Council. This highlights other economic strategies with which the Core Strategy should dovetail. It has been updated in 2011 to take account of more recent economic circumstances and projections, and proposed housing growth.

(1) 16.6 Reference is also made to the new ‘Rother Economic Regeneration Strategy 2010-2015’ and to the information and analysis contained in the draft East Sussex Local Economic Assessment. It is also noted that economic development of the wider sub-region will be carried forward by the new Local Enterprise Partnership, covering East Sussex, Kent and Essex, in the future.

(1) 16.7 This chapter focuses on uses that are central to the economic development 55 of the district, with specific attention to business, uses56, tourism and retailing. More spatially specific policies, including the distribution of retailing, are presented in the relevant spatial sections, while community uses are considered in section 10. The potential for retail growth in each of the towns has been highlighted by ‘A Shopping Assessment’ undertaken for the Council by GL Hearn.

(1) 16.8 Stakeholder meetings have been held with a range of businesses, with specific workshops relating to tourism and land-based industries57.


(1) 16.9 Chapter 6 puts forward as a Strategic Objective:

securing sustainable economic growth for existing and future residents and provide greater prosperity and job opportunities for all

(2) 16.10This Strategic Objective is elaborated upon by the following objectives:

Economic Objectives:

  1. To raise aspirations and improve educational attainment, where needed

  2. To increase skill levels

  3. To expand the business base and overall productivity, to include fostering high growth sectors

  4. To increase the supply and range of job opportunities across the district, as part achieving a more sustainable pattern of development and activity

  5. To increase local earnings, relative to living costs

  6. To develop key existing sectors, including tourism

  7. To realise economic opportunities and mitigate against locational disadvantages

Providing for jobs

(1) 16.11 The total number of additional jobs estimated as being required over the period 2008-2028 is some 6,300 jobs within the district. This is based on workforce projections with allowances for achieving higher activity rates and a reduction in net out-commuting. While commuting will inevitably continue, and brings wealth into the area, a better balance of homes and jobs locally is regarded as desirable.

(1) 16.12 Labour demand forecasts suggest that the majority of job growth will be in financial and business services, other (mainly public) services, distribution, hotels and catering, and construction.

(1) 16.13 However, these are based on past trends and are not necessarily a true representation of what may happen in the future, particularly given the ongoing regeneration agenda.

(1) 16.14 In particular, there is considerable regeneration activity centred on Hastings that is expected to continue and have spin-offs for Bexhill and other parts of Rother. It has already had successes in developing important educational, media and eco-industries sectors. Key sectors are considered further below.

(1) 16.15 The main policy areas relative to these job needs are regarded as being:

  • Fostering economic activity and growth
  • Business land and premises
  • Economic activity outside recognised employment sites
  • Support for key sectors
  • Tourism, leisure and culture
  • Retail development

Fostering economic activity and growth

(1) 16.16 It is clear that the provision of employment land and premises needs to be supported by an equally vital and complementary range of other interventions, to succeed. Ensuring a better business environment includes having an appropriately skilled workforce and the necessary infrastructure, especially transport and ICT, as well as business support and training.

(1) 16.17 Effective utilisation of existing infrastructure and investment in IT infrastructure are vital to help compensate for the area being relatively peripheral.

(1) 16.18 There is a broad agreement between the key agencies to co-operate in providing businesses with the requisite support for investment and growth. The Council’s own role in fostering economic development is set out in its recently prepared Regeneration Strategy 2010 – 2015.

(6) Policy EC1: Fostering Economic Activity and Growth

Economic activity and growth vital to the district’s future prosperity will be coordinated in terms of:

  1. investment in education, training and development, especially in areas of lower attainment levels and skill levels;

  2. an extension of vocational training and sector skills programmes;

  3. continued collaborative working between education, training, business and inward investment agencies, notably through the Local Enterprise Partnership, Rother Local Strategic Partnership, and with partners in Hastings;

  4. effective business support services and business networks;

  5. greater promotional activity of the opportunities for business in the district in line with increasing capacity;

  6. priority given to investment in transport infrastructure and services which provide effective economic benefits;

  7. facilitating investment in high quality ICT connections, especially to business locations, new residential development and as part of infrastructure projects.

Business land and premises

(1) 16.19 Improved availability of a range of accommodation is a necessary component of the economic strategy for the area. Because of the poor state of the economy and the pressing needs of businesses for more, and more modern, accommodation, this should be provided as soon as possible.

(1) 16.20 The overall amount of business floorspace, its nature and timing, as well as broad distribution, is assessed in the Employment Strategy and Land Review. The amount of land identified should provide for employment growth that at least matches workforce growth, facilitates higher levels of economic activity and reduces reliance on out-commuting.

(1) 16.21 The Employment Strategy and Land Review, referred to above, concluded that in order to meet the economic objectives for the Rother and Hastings area, provision should be made for some 100,000 sq m of net additional business floorspace across the district, with approximately 60,000 sq m at Bexhill, 10,000 sq m at Battle, 10,000-20,000 sq m at Rye and 10,000 sq m in the rural areas. It also highlights that there is a particular need for serviced land.

(7) 16.22 These targets relate primarily to business accommodation. Land-based industries, notably, agriculture are considered in the Rural Areas section.

(7) Policy EC2: Business Land and Premises

A suitably broad and readily available supply of business land and premises will be achieved by:

  1. provision for some 100,000 sq m of employment floorspace over the Plan period, with the majority following on from construction of the Hastings Bexhill Link Road;

  2. increasing the supply of high quality employment sites, including new major business sites at Bexhill;

  3. improving the supply and range of small-medium sized sites and units, including incubation space, in the towns and villages which act as local service centres, particularly those that have good strategic accessibility (i.e. to the A21 road and rail corridor);

  4. providing for business development in locations that make effective use of rail and water transport opportunities, notably at the Port of Rye;

  5. seeking town centre, or edge of centre, sites for offices, including as part of mixed-use developments.

(6) Policy EC3: Existing Employment Sites

Effective use of employment land and premises will be secured by the following:

  1. land and premises currently (or last) in employment, including tourism, use will be retained in such use unless it is demonstrated that there is no reasonable prospect of its continued use for employment purposes or it would cause serious harm to local amenities;

  2. permitting intensification, conversion, redevelopment and/or extension having regard to other policies of the Plan;

  3. facilitating access/environmental improvements, where appropriate;

  4. where continued employment use of a site/premises is demonstrated not to be viable, permit complementary enabling development as part of an overall scheme to make most effective use of the property for employment purposes; if a mixed use scheme is not viable, prioritise alternative community uses, affordable housing and then market housing, subject to local needs.

(2) 16.23 In relation to (iv) above, attention is also drawn to Policy HO2 regarding the priority to economic potential, rather than affordable housing potential in such situations.

Sustainable economic activity outside recognised employment sites

16.24 Employment is well dispersed across both urban and rural areas in Rother, with a significant amount of working at or from home. This is typical of a rural area, although Rother has the highest proportion of its workforce working at or from home of any district in the South East.

(1) Policy EC4: Business Activities Elsewhere Within the District

Business activities will be promoted elsewhere within the district by the following:

  1. continuing to give priority to the re-use and adaptation of suitable buildings in the countryside for employment, including for tourism purposes, in accordance with the Rural Areas policies;

  2. incorporate an appropriate level of business development within residential allocations and developments to contribute to the overall development strategy, where such accommodation is otherwise appropriate in the site circumstances;

  3. facilitating (where permission is required) business activities operating from residential properties wherever there is no adverse impact on local character and amenities, including by traffic generation.

Support for key sectors

16.25 There are a number of sectors that are vital to the local economy and/or have the potential to contribute significantly to future economic growth. These are generally in the high value and knowledge-based sectors and include engineering, the academic sector, eco-industries, the care sector, land-based industries that draw on local resources/character and professional occupations.

16.26 The tourism sector is a specific sector that warrants attention, and is discussed below. Land-based industries, which focus on food production, but can also relate to forestry, equestrianism and traditional land management, are supported through Rural Areas policies as well.

(2) Policy EC5: Support for Key Sectors

Particular regard will be given to key sectors, notably “enviro-industries”, engineering, financial and business services and other growth and knowledge-based businesses, and those that are directly related to sensitive land management, as part of the consideration of sites for employment development and determination of planning applications for employment sites.


16.27 Visitors to Rother contribute significantly to the local economy. In 2009 58, tourism activity is estimated to have supported a business turnover worth some £262million and the equivalent of nearly 4,500 full time jobs. Visitors come for the area’s arts and culture, history and heritage, seaside (notably Camber Sands), literary connections, events, gardens and local crafts/produce.

16.28 The vast majority of visits (over 5.2 million) are day trips, although there were still nearly 0.5 million staying trips made in 2009. While many overnight visitors stay with family and friends, there are still demands for both serviced and self-catering accommodation. These demands have been the subject of respective reports by tourism consultants, Hotel Solutions.

16.29 There is a renaissance in the UK holiday market, as transport costs, exchange rate pressures, environmental and security concerns put a brake on overseas travel. The south east, with a relatively favourable climate, and proximity to London, could be a major beneficiary of these so-called ‘staycations’.

16.30 For Rother, a selective approach is proposed, focussing on higher quality markets and those that are related to, and support, the area’s high environmental qualities. This is promoted through the ‘1066 Country’ programme.

16.31 It is recognised that there can be tensions between tourism and local community life and/or environmental objectives. However, tourism development can often also provide local amenities and improve the range of leisure facilities, thereby integrating such developments into local communities. Environmental concerns may be addressed by careful consideration of the environmental impacts of tourism uses.

(9) Policy EC6: Tourism Activities and Facilities

Proposals relating to tourism activities and facilities will be encouraged where they accord with the following considerations, as appropriate:

  1. it provides for the enhancement of existing attractions or accommodation to meet customer expectations;

  2. it supports active use along the coast, consistent with environmental and amenity factors;

  3. it develops markets for local produce, particularly that which supports land-based industries and cultural assets;

  4. it does not involve the loss of tourism accommodation, unless there is no prospect of its continued use;

  5. it increases the supply of quality serviced and self-catering accommodation;

  6. appropriate controls are in place that restrict occupancy to that for holiday purposes, whilst not unduly restricting operators from extending their season (subject to visual impact and flood risk considerations, where applicable);

  7. it is capable of access by public transport, cycleways and footpaths.

(6) 16.32 There are particular opportunities for suitable proposals for:

  • self-catering and serviced accommodation across the district
  • existing accommodation to upgrade and enhance their offer
  • the expansion of country house and golf hotels
  • larger self-catering holiday lets and barn conversions
  • replacement of older caravan provision with log cabins/lodges and luxury camping
  • both family and boutique hotels, and holiday flats, in Bexhill
  • upgraded accommodation and facilities at Camber
  • the extension of the Kent and Sussex Steam Railway
  • development in support of activity breaks, both on the coast and inland

Retail development

16.33 This section identifies the hierarchy of shopping centres in the district and sets out a generic policy approach for the relative growth of these, as well as for retail development elsewhere. Policies specific to individual centres are contained in the respective settlement chapters.

16.34 National planning policies are contained in PPS4: ‘Planning for Sustainable Economic Growth’. Its objectives include:-

  • delivering more sustainable patterns of development and reducing the need to travel by car and responding to climate change;
  • promoting the vitality and viability of town and other centres as important places for communities. This will be achieved by:
    • focusing new economic growth in existing centres;
    • promoting competition between retailers and enhancing consumer choice

16.35 Guidance to assist the interpretation and application of the national policy tests in PPS4 is provided by a companion guide entitled ‘Practice Guidance on Need, Impact and the Sequential Approach’.

16.36 The clear focus in favour of town centres also applies to other uses, including leisure, entertainment and more intensive recreation uses, offices and arts, culture and tourism development.

16.37 Patterns of retailing are largely determined by the network of centres within a sub-region. Strategic centres, as identified in the South East Plan, include Tunbridge Wells, Ashford and Eastbourne (all defined as a ‘Primary Regional Centre’) and Hastings and Folkestone (defined as ‘Secondary Regional Centres’). Town centres, such as Bexhill, Battle and Rye, provide the main retail and other services to their local area.

16.38 Having regard to their local Town Centre roles, a district-wide Shopping Assessment undertaken for the Council has identified some potential growth in each of Bexhill, Battle and Rye. In each case, a scale of growth is identified that would retain the town centres’ roles and “clawback” some trade lost to Hastings and Eastbourne and other centres over recent years.

16.39 While the Assessment was undertaken in 2008, and consumer retail spending and the forecast growth in spending has been reviewed downward over the last two years in response to recessionary economic effects and their impact upon consumer spending, particularly discretionary spending on comparison goods, the approach is still regarded as valid for longer time horizon retail planning forecasts.

(1) 16.40 However, the recession has been particularly strong and as a consequence there has been a downward shift in the consumer spending trend line. This has the effect of extending somewhat the expected timeframe within which the quantitative need for additional retail floorspace should be met. It is also noted that, given that the overall level of retail provision in the town centres has not changed since 2008, the quantitative needs are still supported in terms of qualitative needs.

16.41 Reducing trade “leakage” from the district’s towns is regarded as consistent with meeting shopping needs sustainably and with helping them remaining competitive. In all cases, the potential to accommodate the identified additional floorspace will require careful site evaluations, given space and heritage constraints on town centre expansion.

16.42 Hence, while every effort will be made to accommodate additional floorspace within the respective town centres, sequential approaches will involve then looking at edge of centre locations with good links to the centre and then out-of centre locations with a good access by different modes, with preference to locations most likely to encourage linked trips to the town centre. Access to more deprived areas will also be a factor.

(2) 16.43 In the case of Bexhill, consideration will be given to locations in or adjoining Sidley and Little Common district centres ahead of out-of-centre locations. The only significant out-of-centre shopping area is the Ravenside Retail Park. This attracts trade from across Bexhill and St Leonards, for both convenience and comparison goods. Its established role and potential for linked trips within the Retail Park would place it ahead of other out-of-centre locations in Bexhill. However, the priority is to focus on town and district centres (both in Bexhill and Hastings), and related edge of centre sites. Further consideration or retailing in Bexhill is contained in the chapter 8.

16.44 The Jempsons store at Peasmarsh also represents an out-of-centre retailing development. It is a single large food store on a 2 hectares site, and has an outstanding application to house a ‘home and garden’ area and related works (as a revision to an earlier permission). Any significant expansion beyond this would be subject to careful assessment of its impacts on nearby centres including Rye town centre.

16.45 Given the relatively small scale of town centres in the district, then retail developments of considerably less than the national threshold of 2,500 sq m outside the centres are likely to impact on them. Proposals of over 5% of existing gross floorspace should certainly be assessed in terms of their impact on relevant centres. This would be equivalent to 3,000 sq m in Bexhill and 1,000 sq m in Rye and 500 sq m in Battle.

16.46 PPS4 encourages local planning authorities to proactively plan and promote competitive town centre environments. Particularly relevant locally are supporting a diverse range of uses, planning for a strong retail mix, supporting service uses, creating markets, and managing the night-time economy.

(1) 16.47 Village shops and services are also important to the vitality and sustainability of rural communities. Further consideration to these, and polices to retain and support them, are contained in Chapter 15: Rural Areas.

(3) Policy EC7: Retail Development

The overall strategy for retail and related service uses in Rother district is to:

  1. Support the Town Centres of Bexhill, Battle and Rye in maintaining and increasing the proportion of retail spend available within their respective local catchments, consistent with the wider hierarchy of centres and their capacity for increasing and recovering trade in a sustainable manner;

  2. Plan for the amount of additional floorspace in each of the town centres, as set out in there respective town chapters;

  3. If there are no sites available (or will be available within a reasonable period of time) in town centres to meet identified retail needs, to firstly look at edge of centre locations and then out-of-centre locations, with priority to those with greatest accessibility in each category;

  4. Require development proposals likely to impact on a town centre to undertake an impact test;

  5. Actively promote Town Centres through appropriate interventions in close collaboration with town centre businesses and local communities.

55 Economic development is defined in PPS4 and includes that within the B Use Classes, public and community uses, and main town centre uses 56 Business uses are those essentially within Class B of the Use Classes Order, including offices, research and development uses, light manufacturing, general industry, warehousing/storage and similar “sui Generis“ uses 57 Reports of these are contained in the Core Strategy ‘Consultation Statement’ 58 Source: The Economic Impact of Tourism Rother 2009
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