9. EMPLOYMENT DEVELOPMENTS

9.1.

New business development, including through mixed uses

There is a need to foster an appropriate scale of business development in both towns and villages in order to meet the employment land and premises requirements identified in Section 4. This should be concentrated in established industrial areas, including Beeching Road, Brett Drive and Sidley Goods Yard in Bexhill, Station Road, Battle and Rye Harbour Road, and complemented by other enclaves in the towns and rural areas.

9.2.

However, the weaknesses of the commercial property market generally militate against the construction of new buildings, especially small units, at present. This is reinforced by the relative strength of the housing market. Although an improving market is foreseen, as major regeneration initiatives progress and accessibility is improved, this puts heavy onus on retaining existing employment sites and promoting mixed use developments.

9.3.

Also, given the environmental and economic constraints on new business developments, it is considered appropriate to encourage businesses to expand. Where they operate outside development boundaries, the opportunities may be more constrained by environmental considerations, but this should not be ruled out, because of their established contribution to the rural economy.

9.4.

Mixed-use developments can be achieved in both urban and rural locations. They offer an appropriate and effective means of providing further business opportunities, especially for indigenous firms to establish and grow. The large development allocations in Bexhill should incorporate business accommodation as part of them. This is provided for separately in Section 10: Bexhill. Other employment allocations are put forward at Rye, the Hastings fringe, Westfield, Robertsbridge and Ticehurst (being mixed use areas) and at Marley Lane below.

POLICY EM1 View Map of this site ?

Large-scale business development will be focussed upon established and allocated business areas within developmentboundaries. Smaller-scale business activities will be accommodated by:

  1. requiring an appropriate level of business accommodation as part of residential developments in areas where a need for business space can be identified and where the locational and economic circumstances of the site are suitable; and,
  2. the conversion, redevelopment or extension of sites and premises in development boundaries where general development considerations are met;
  3. the conversion, redevelopment or extension of sites and premises outside development boundaries where this does not detract from the character or appearance of the area as well as meeting general development considerations.

POLICY EM2 View Map of this site ?

Proposals to change the use of existing buildings or redevelop sites currently or last in employment creating use will be resisted unless it is demonstrated that there is no prospect of its continued use for business purposes or that it would perpetuate serious harm to residential amenities.

In the event of the above qualifications being met, first consideration will be given to a mixed-use development in accordance with Policy EM1 and the criteria of Policies DS1 and GD1.

9.5.

Employment use of buildings in the countryside

The overall spatial strategy identifies a role for encouraging suitable employment opportunities in the countryside to assist the vitality of rural communities. While new business development can well be intrusive and, hence, inappropriate, there is scope for effective conservation through the sensitive re-use and conversion of existing rural buildings in addition to the potential provided by Policy EM1(iii) above. This is encouraged nationally, especially where the economy of the locality justifies it. The poor state of the local economy, the marginal nature of much farming and the substantial out-commuting from rural parishes combine to justify priority to the conversion of rural buildings for employment purposes locally. There will still need to be safeguards on such activities in relation to traffic generation, impact on local amenities and landscape character.

9.6.

Structure Plan policies are also relevant, notably S11, which provides for some alternative uses of agricultural land and countryside to help the local economy, and Policy S10 for the conversion and/or change of use of existing buildings. The ‘Rural Priority Area’ status reinforces this policy presumption.

POLICY EM3 View Map of this site ?

Re-use and adaptation of buildings in the countryside for employment purposes, including tourism, or as community facilities that accord with Policy CF1, will be permitted provided:-

  1. they are of permanent and substantial construction (including modern buildings);
  2. they are capable of conversion without major or complete reconstruction
  3. their form, bulk and general design are in keeping with their surroundings;
  4. the proposal would not detract from the character of the building or its setting;
  5. the proposed use either has an acceptable impact on its surroundings, including its traffic impact and on local amenity or any potentially harmful impacts can be dealt with by imposing reasonable conditions on a planning permission;
  6. re-use and adaptation complies with other relevant policies in the Plan.
9.7.

Marley Lane – Land at Rutherfords Business Park (Inset Map 23)

Rutherfords Business Park is an existing, well established business site accommodating a number of diverse companies within an array of mostly smaller buildings. The site is not used efficiently and the general standard of accommodation is low. There is considered to be potential for redevelopment within the existing area, which is visually very well contained.

9.8.

An extant planning permission provides for the construction of 4,500m2 of office/ light industrial floorspace on adjoining land to the north-west. This permission may be implemented without further recourse to the Local Planning Authority.

9.9.

Further expansion onto the open land to the rear, presently laid out as a pitch and putt golf course and extending up to ancient semi-natural woodland, needs to be carefully contained. Much of the land, on higher ground than the existing buildings, is visible from Battle.

9.10.

Given all the above factors, together with transport considerations, it is proposed that intensification and redevelopment within the existing site be encouraged together with some expansion onto adjoining land, but to a lesser degree than provided for by the outstanding consent. In particular, this is to maintain the physical and visual containment of development and to limit the increase in traffic along Marley Lane. The revised extension of the site to include a further 0.75 hectares to the north would provide for some 2,700m2 of additional business accommodation.

9.11.

It has to be acknowledged that the proposed allocation does not invalidate the outstanding permission, but would provide a basis for any alternative development proposals and still provide a valuable opportunity for existing businesses on the site and other firms in the Battle and surrounding rural area, to expand.

POLICY EM4 View Map of this site ?

Land at Rutherfords Business Park, Marley Lane including a northward extension as shown on the Proposals Map is allocated for business purposes. Development proposals, including the rationalisation and intensification of existing developments, should be visually contained from the wider Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty setting and, subject to a transport assessment, provide for an appropriate contribution to improvements to the junction of Marley Lane and the A21 and should demonstrate by means of a travel plan how additional traffic generation will be minimised.

9.12.

Marley Lane – Land at D.B. Earthmoving (Inset Map 23)

D.B. Earthmoving is an established plant hire depot use at the junction of Marley Lane and the A21. Outline planning permission for the development of a business park on adjoining land to the west was granted in 1990. The company grubbed out Semi-Natural Ancient Woodland on the site and began works to implement the permission. However, this permission has lapsed and the works were deemed to be unauthorised. A consequent enforcement notice was upheld at appeal. Compliance with the notice is pending a referral to the European Court.

9.13.

It is noted that while the enforcement notice requires the removal of unauthorised development, it cannot reinstate the site. The arguments about development are considered finely balanced.

9.14.

In all the circumstances, it is believed that a limited amount of employment development, which does not generate significant traffic movements, could be accommodated on part of the site, subject to strict environmental safeguards. This will involve new woodland planting to the south and west of the site, strengthening of the tree belt around all boundaries and their subsequent management. This will help alleviate the adverse effect on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A TreePreservation Order has been placed on all existing trees to ensure that no further encroachment of Felon Wood or tree felling occurs. The proposed allocation is also subject to a detailed ecological survey and a drainage assessment to further assess and limit the impact any development may have.

9.15.

It is considered that storage and, possibly, some industrial uses will be the most appropriate employment activity on the site. This is in keeping with the existing employment use of the adjoining site and with its position close to the A21. Any journeys made to the site would principally take place by car and therefore attempts must be in place to ensure sustainable travel to work patterns.

9.16.

The developable area lies outside of the flood risk area and therefore is not susceptible to fluvial flooding. However, because of the nearby aquifer, the site does lie within a ground water protection zone and therefore the discharge of water via soakaways would not be permitted.

9.17.

It is concluded that this approach, which involves a developable area of approximately 0.6 hectares, is the most appropriate way forward in providing a valuable employment site whilst at the same time ensuring the environmental considerations will be respected. It would provide for up to 1,900m2 of business accommodation.

POLICY EM5 View Map of this site ?

Land west of D.B. Earthmoving, Marley Lane, as defined on the Proposals Map, is allocated for industrial/storage purposes. Development proposals should:

  1. provide for the retention and strengthening of boundary tree belts, new woodland planting to the south and west and its subsequent management;
  2. be subject to an ecological survey;
  3. ensure that it does not prejudice ground water;
  4. not encroach into the area at risk of flooding and should employ measures to minimise the risk of increased flooding due to surface water run-off; and
  5. be accompanied by travel plan to show how the traffic to be generated is to be minimised and by a transport assessment that would, amongst other things identify whether improvements are in consequence required to the junction of Marley Lane for which an appropriate contribution will be required from the development.
9.18.

Businesses in residential areas

The vast majority of businesses in the District employ less than 10 people. Their locational requirements are varied. Recognised business areas are normally preferred in planning terms. Often, small firms can operate in residential areas without causing nuisance, while an increasing number of people work from home. Home-working brings benefits, particularly in a reduction in commuting.

9.19.

Where there is no material change of use, planning permission is not required. Where planning permission is required, the Council aims not to be unduly restrictive so long as local amenities are maintained. A policy is put forward to indicate that the Council will not be dogmatic about a division of land uses.

POLICY EM6 View Map of this site ?

Proposals for business uses operating from residential properties, including for extensions or alterations for such a purpose, will be permitted where they do not have an adverse impact on the amenities of adjacent properties or the character of the area including as a consequence of traffic generation.

9.20.

Tourism

The economy of Rother District is boosted by the travel and tourism industry, with an estimated £120 million spent by tourists and visitors in 1997 (The Economic Impact of Tourism, RDC 1999). Rye, Battle, Bexhill and the historic villages and properties in the area are well-established tourist destinations.

9.21.

Most visits are short-stay, including day trips, but there is also a sizeable caravan and camping  holiday industry concentrated on the coast. Many existing caravan sites lie within flood risk areas that are not defended against the 1 in 100 fluvial or the 1 in 200 year tidal flood event. In these instances the need to ensure the safety of occupants will constrain use during the winter. There is further scope to develop business and cultural tourism and “green tourism” particularly in the towns and the High Weald.

9.22.

The recent impact of Foot and Mouth Disease on the rural economy generally and specifically on tourism has been evident. The District nonetheless maintains many heritage and cultural assets, both natural and built, that provide potential opportunities for diversification into tourism, whether accommodation or attractions.

9.23.

Therefore, planning policies seek to foster appropriate tourism in line with the Council’s Tourism Strategy, while also incorporating safeguards that maintain the very character and environmental qualities that visitors come to enjoy – and that local residents value.

9.24.

It is not considered appropriate to provide policy guidance to cover every eventuality but the policies within the Local Plan should enable future tourism proposals to be given proper consideration. Specific consideration is given to caravan and camping proposals.

POLICY EM7 View Map of this site ?

Proposals for new or extended tourist attractions or visitors facilities will be permitted where they accord with Policies DS1 and GD1. In the countryside outside development boundaries, if the development is not clearly ancillary to an existing visitor facility or tourist attraction, it will be necessary to demonstrate that a countryside location is necessary.

9.25.

Consideration has been given to extend the Kent and East Sussex Steam Railway line westwards from Bodiam to Robertsbridge to link with the main line services from Hastings to London.

9.26.

The tourism advantages are acknowledged and the proposed route would largely follow the former trackbed. There are major issues that would need to be addressed. The Highways Agency has advised that a level crossing where the track would traverse the A21 Robertsbridge Bypass would be unacceptable, while there are environmental and technical difficulties with other options including the impacts on flood risk areas. The Local Highway Authority has similarly indicated that it does not favour a level crossing of the B2244. Also, the route runs along the high quality and distinctive landscape of the Lower Rother Valley, the character and general tranquillity of which should be maintained. The Council wishes to indicate its support in principle for the extension of the Kent and East Sussex Steam railway to Robertsbridge, while detailed proposals must satisfactorily address environmental and road crossing issues.

POLICY EM8 View Map of this site ?

An extension to the Kent and East Sussex Steam Railway from Bodiam to Robertsbridge, along the route identified on the Proposals Map, will be supported, subject to a proposal meeting the following criteria:

  1. it must not compromise the integrity of the floodplain and the flood protection measures at Robertsbridge;
  2. it has an acceptable impact on the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty;
  3. it incorporates appropriate arrangements for crossing the A21, B2244 at Udiam, Northbridge Street and the River Rother.
9.27.

Overall throughout the District, there are over 30,000 bedspaces available in the holiday season which includes accommodation in hotels, motels, guesthouses, self catering flats and cottages, holiday chalets, static and touring holiday caravans.

9.28.

Visitors staying in the area bring important benefits for the local economy. Therefore the loss of existing tourist accommodation to other uses will be resisted unless it is of unacceptably poor quality or where a genuine lack of demand for the accommodation is demonstrated. A Supplementary Planning Document will be published with further advice on the relevant tests. To reduce unnecessary journeys and to protect the landscape which is itself an important visitor attraction, new tourist accommodation will be concentrated within development boundaries except where allowed for in the countryside by other Plan policies including Policy EM3 and Policy EM10.’

POLICY EM9 View Map of this site ?

Within development boundaries, proposals for the provision of an appropriate range and quality of tourist accommodation will be permitted subject to other policies of this Plan. In the countryside, tourist accommodation will only be permitted if specifically provided for by other Plan policies and in accordance with them. In all parts of the District, proposals for the loss of good quality visitor accommodation will be refused unless it can be demonstrated that there is no longer a demand for that accommodation.

9.29.

In the countryside, Policy EM3 provides for appropriate conversion of existing buildings to provide tourist accommodation.

9.30.

In Rother District more than half of all tourist accommodation is provided by static caravans, which adds to economic vitality of the District. Nevertheless the Council considers that, normally, new holiday centres and static caravan sites are inappropriate in the countryside by reason of their visual impact and demand on services and facilities. There is more scope for touring caravans and camping pitches that can be more visually contained in the summer months.

POLICY EM10 View Map of this site ?

In the countryside, proposals for additional static caravan and chalet accommodation for holiday purposes will not be permitted unless it would result in a significant improvement in the appearance of an existing site or is essential in association with a rural enterprise and otherwise meets the policies of the Plan.

The provision of additional touring caravan and tented camping facilities will be considered against the other policies in this Plan and the following criteria:-

  1. new sites shall be restricted to those areas where they have an acceptable environmental impact, and the value of inland sites as a counter attraction to the coast will be considered when determining applications. Ideally the site shall not be visible from public roads, open spaces or footpaths;
  2. the proposal should not significantly detract from the needs of agriculture;
  3. the proposal should not adversely affect the amenities of residents in nearby dwellings;
  4. applications for new pitches should be accompanied by comprehensive landscaping proposals in all cases;
  5. suitable residential accommodation that is operationally necessary for site management may be permitted with appropriate conditions and safeguards;
  6. occupancy accords with Policy EM11 below;
  7. essential services should be readily available and of sufficient capacity, i.e., water, power, sewerage/sewage disposal, refuse disposal.
  8. would not be in an area that is not defended against the 1 in 100 year fluvial or 1 in 200 year tidal flood event.
9.31.

To ensure that caravan, holiday chalet and camping accommodation remains available as tourist accommodation and is not used for other residential purposes, the occupancy of such accommodation will be limited to holiday use. Additional seasonal occupancy conditions serve a similar purpose and are readily enforceable. They can also prevent the use of accommodation at unsuitable times of year, for example in locations that are at high risk of seasonal flooding or where a lack of screening in the winter months would make touring caravans and tents visually intrusive. Seasonal occupancy of holiday chalets and static caravans would typically be limited to between 1st March in any one year and to the 14th January the following year, while the use of land for touring caravans and camping would typically be limited to between 1st March and 31st October in each year with those sites being cleared of caravans and tents in the winter months. Alternative means of occupancy control may be considered if they would be effective.

9.32.

The extension of existing seasonal occupancy periods is unlikely to be agreed in undefended areas of high flood risk* unless a flood risk assessment has satisfactorily demonstrated that the appropriate minimum standard of flood defence will be provided and it would not impede flood flows or otherwise prejudice floodplain storage.’ (* ‘high flood risk’ relates to areas not having protection against a 1 in 100 year fluvial or 1 in 200 year tidal flood event).

POLICY EM11 View Map of this site ?

To prevent the ordinary residential use of accommodation intended for tourists, the occupation of holiday chalets, static holiday caravans, touring caravans and camping sites will be restricted to holiday purposes only and will also be subject to seasonal occupancy conditions. Where a seasonal condition is not also needed to prevent visual intrusion in the winter months or to address a seasonal risk of flooding, alternative means of occupancy control will be considered subject to their being both effective and readily enforceable.

POLICY EM12 View Map of this site ?

Planning permission will be granted for the use of parts of existing static caravan sites and in appropriately located buildings for the winter storage of touring caravans and other forms of touring unit provided the proposal would not conflict with the other policies in this Plan.

9.33.

Shopping

Access to shops and services, particularly those that meet day-to-day needs, is a vital aspect of sustainable development. Town, village and local centres provide a focus for communities, are a source of jobs and help reduce the need to travel, especially by car.

9.34.

Government policy for shopping development gives emphasis to sustaining and enhancing the vitality and viability of town centres. This is laid out in PPG6: Town Centres and Retail Developments and by subsequent Ministerial statements. Town centres are the first preference for new shopping development, but if this is not possible, a “sequential approach” to alternative locations should be followed. This involves looking at edge-of-centre sites, district and local centres and, only then, outof- centre sites in accessible locations.

9.35.

The Council is supportive of this approach and its shopping policies provide a framework for new shopping development, including by conversion of buildings, in town centres. The existing town centres of Bexhill, Battle and Rye all offer a range of convenience and comparison goods, although many of the District’s residents look to Hastings, Tunbridge Wells and Eastbourne for comparison shopping.

9.36.

The need, where one exists, to identify further scope for additional shopping floorspace in the town is considered in their respective sections. In accordance with Policy SH2 of the Structure Plan and guidance in PPS6, the retail floor space needs of the towns will be assessed as part of a process which includes regular monitoring and review. The process will be undertaken in conjunction with relevant stakeholders and the communities. In line with the Structure Plan, the term ‘main shopping centres’ is used to define town centres and, in relation to Bexhill, district centres, for the purposes of applying shopping policies, including the sequential test. These are defined on the respective Inset Maps.

9.37.

Elsewhere, and particularly in villages, it is important to encourage the provision and retention, of shops and services which meet day-to-day needs. The continuing decline in the number of village shops is a particular concern and impacts most on less mobile residents. While the retention of village shops is essentially market driven, planning policies may resist the change of use of important shops and services unless a continued retail use is clearly unviable. The Council also helps in a number of ways, including through its business hardship and village shop rate relief schemes.

9.38.

Retail activity in the countryside is generally restricted to maintain environmental character and qualities, as well as to minimise car journeys. However, some scope may be provided to encourage farm diversification and the development of markets for local produce. 

9.39.

Advertising is integral to commercial activity and can be accepted on that basis. However, it should be consistent with amenity and public safety interests, having particular regard to its impact on the character of the building and the locality.

9.40.

The Structure Plan contains several policies for shopping development, which need to be considered alongside the more recent PPS6. Policies SH5 and SH6 of the Structure Plan give definitions of small scale and large shopping proposals Policy SH5 treats proposals of 500 square metres (gross) floorspace or less not within or on the edge of existing main shopping centres outside urban areas as small scale, while Policy SH6 treats all shopping proposals of 2,500 square metres or more (gross) floorspace as large. The criteria in Policy SH3 are considered applicable to all outof- centre proposals in the light of PPS6 advice. Also, Structure Plan policy SH4(b) provides a basis for the consideration of garden centre developments. Policy SH5 provides for small-scale shopping proposals, including farm shops.

POLICY EM13 View Map of this site ?

Shopping and related commercial development shall be focussed within the main shopping areas of Bexhill, Battle and Rye town centres, as defined on the Proposals Map.

Within the main shopping areas, as defined on the Proposals Map, the loss of significant existing ground floor retail floorspace falling within Use Class A1 will be resisted and planning permission will be granted for the introduction of new shops and the expansion or refurbishment of existing premises, subject to suitable layout and design details.

POLICY EM14 View Map of this site ?

Further significant retail development will only be permitted outside town centres or district centres, as defined on the Proposals Map, where a quantitative and qualitative need for the development is demonstrated and the location is justified, having regard to other provisions made in the Plan and the sequential test in PPS6 and it otherwise meets policies in the Plan and criteria (a) – (j) in Structure Plan policy SH3.

POLICY EM15 View Map of this site ?

Proposals for new or improved small-scale retail development within town and village development boundaries will be permitted where it is of a scale related to the local neighbourhood, conveniently located to existing community facilities and meets the site considerations of Policy GD1.

The loss of shop premises providing a vital service to a local community (such as a general store) to another use will only be permitted if it is demonstrated that the existing business is no longer viable.

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