Employment Land in Hyndburn - Future Provision
Councillor Miles Parkinson OBE, Leader of the Council, reported on the allocation of future employment development land.
Members were informed that as well as needing to find sufficient land to meet the Borough’s housing needs in the Local Plan, it was also necessary to allocate land for future employment development. The report presented options for the future provision of Employment Land in Hyndburn prior to the Council issuing the Publication Version of the Local Plan in Spring 2021.
The report also set out the direction of travel that the Local Plan was proposing to take, with a view to addressing any concerns raised by Members prior to the publication version of the plan being issued. Plans illustrating the location of sites and their site reference numbers were also included within the report.
Councillor Parkinson summarised the main features of the report, which gave the details of what was proposed and the logic supporting the direction of travel. The decisions were important for the business community and the wider economic wellbeing of Hyndburn. This would occur naturally as part of the Local Plan process, and would need the approval of the Secretary of State in around 18-24 months’ time.
The Leader was delighted with the progress made a Frontier Park. The development had come on-stream much faster than anticipated and would soon be fully open. The development in Huncoat would now focus on that area being a premier housing location. Accordingly, there would be a shortfall in other employment land. The report provided some direction on this matter.
The Borough included a lot of Green Belt land, but it was a fact that the M65 had been developed straight through that Green Belt land. The motorway could deliver economic growth around its junctions within the borough, namely Junctions 6, 7 and 8.
A variety of possible locations had been identified by the planners. Some of those sites could be more easily developed than others, including Frontier Park, and Altham Business Park, which were already attractive to major public companies.
This was a critical time for the Borough, which had been badly impacted by COVID-19. Accordingly, it would need to look to promote economic development within the Borough.
Councillor Marlene Haworth commented that the Conservative Group had raised some concerns about the potential loss of Green Belt. That land was precious and there should be a focus on using brownfield sites first. Green Belt should only be used cautiously for housing or businesses.
The Leader of the Council responded that brownfield site were still important, but frequently their use was constrained by their small size, often being former mill sites. Modern employment often required large distribution hubs. Another issue was that brownfield sites were frequently surrounded by residential properties. For that reason these site were now preferred for housing development. Typically new employment sites required space for large industrial units with a large apron for vehicles. These would not be welcomed in urban areas. For the last three decades development had been focused on Altham Buisness Park, which provided employment both in Hyndburn and for the wider area. Frontier Park would do similarly. Employment sites now needed to be close to motorway junctions.
Overall, individual townships would remain separate, although Accrington, Church and Oswaldtwistle now largely formed a single conurbation. It was acknowledged that the boundaries of Oswaldtwistle, Rishton, Clayton-le-Moors and Great Harwood should not stretch towards Blackburn and that the surrounding Green Belt should be protected. Accordingly, Green Belt land would only be considered where this made good sense and did not impact on other local amenity. Similar commitments had been made previously. For example, Lyndon Park in Great Harwood had been a controversial development, but it had been approved as other benefits had been realised for the residents.
Altham was preferred as the principle site for further employment land development, but if that site was used up before the end of the Local Plan period, use could be made of some land at Whitebirk.
Approval of the report was not a key decision.
Reason for Decision
The report included detailed information on the following matters, which explained the reasons for the decision:-
- National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF);
- The Current Position – the Hyndburn Core Strategy;
- A further strategic site;
- Developments since the adoption of the Core Strategy in 2012;
- Future direction;
- M65 Junction 6;
- M65 Junction 7;
- M65 Junction 8;
- Other sites; and
- Conclusions and Local Plan Update
Alternative Options considered and Reasons for Rejection
A number of alternative sites had been considered as part of the process. Sites put forward through the call for sites had been assessed using a variety of criteria and against other evidence collected as part of the Local Plan process.
The Council would be collecting further evidence on sites as part of the Local Plan process, for example highway assessments, and if that evidence indicated that the approach described in the current report should be changed a follow up report would be presented to members.
Resolved (1) That the authority seeks to develop a strategy for employment land in the Local Plan that is based on the following approach:
i. A connected housing and economic development strategy that is based on growth and a desire to meet the Borough’s housing and employment land requirements, taking into consideration the evidence base provided by GL Hearn (2016), Turleys (2017 and 2019) and Aspinall Verdi (2019).
ii. An employment strategy that remains consistent with the broad approach taken by the Core Strategy adopted in 2012 but reflects the changes described in this report and is based on the following objectives:
a. The provision of sufficient employment land;
b. The identification and allocation of strategic employment sites at Frontier Park and Altham in the first instance, and in the longer term land at Whitebirk to the west of Rishton;
c. An existing employment site strategy that protects good quality employment sites whilst allows the development of poor quality sites for other development, and;
d. The development of a town centre strategy.
iii. That the strategic employment site at Frontier Park will continue to make a contribution to the Borough’s Employment Land requirements during the plan period 2016-2036.
iv. That the strategic employment site at Huncoat will not contribute towards future employment need but will be developed for housing as shown by the emerging Masterplan being developed for Huncoat Garden Village.
v. That land to the south of Altham Business Park contribute towards the Borough’s employment land requirements subject to measures being taken to mitigate the impact of the development to acceptable levels as described in this report. This should be based around Sites 49, 60 and 218 described at Appendix 4.
vi. That in the longer term, land at Whitebirk be identified as a potential strategic employment site subject to a masterplan being undertaken that prescribes the means by which this site can be developed in a sustainable manner. This should be based around Sites 229, 230 and part of site 228 described at Appendix 2.
vii. That the Local Plan will necessitate a review of Green Belt. The potential sites at Altham and Whitebirk are both in the Green Belt and in order for the Green Belt boundary to be changed in either of these locations it will be necessary for the Council to demonstrate that there are exceptional circumstances for this change. This justification will be undertaken as part of the local plan preparation.
(2) That Cabinet notes that these recommendations are based on current evidence for the Local Plan and should not prejudice the outcome of evidence that remains to be undertaken and which will need to be taken into consideration in the preparation of the Local Plan.
(3) To note that the report is intended to provide an indication of the direction of travel that officers are seeking to take on Employment Land and it has been requested by the Leader of the Council.
(4) To note that agreement to the recommendations set out above will allow officers to focus on the approach described, but that the report does not represent policy and does not form part of the development plan.