Section four

Employment‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌local‌ ‌economy‌

Our district plays an important role in the economy of East Kent. With major employers, such as the universities, and a thriving tourism sector. The local economy supports large numbers of jobs and Canterbury is a key centre of economic activity.

The full impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy and employment are yet to be realised. However, the contraction of the economy, the impacts on sectors such as tourism, and the fundamental changes we are seeing in working and travel patterns all present challenges which the new Local Plan will need to address.

How the economy changes in the future, the number of jobs, the type of jobs and where new jobs will be located are all important issues. We want to support the creation of a wide range of jobs, including high value jobs, which can improve local incomes. We also want to make sure that new commercial development contributes towards zero carbon targets.

Through the consultation and engagement so far we know that these issues are really important to our communities. We have prepared options for how we should approach these issues through the new Local Plan.

In this section we are asking about things such as:

  • where new employment growth should be focussed
  • how we should support the development of our universities
  • the best ways to support tourism
  • how we can improve the energy efficiency and carbon emission of new commercial developments.

Ensuring that ‌enough business‌ ‌space‌ is provided in the right locations to support growth

Land and business premises need to be available in the right locations to allow existing businesses to grow as well as support start-up businesses and attract new businesses.

Different types of businesses need different types of space and locations. For example, a distribution warehouse may need good access to a motorway, whereas professional services are more likely to be located in urban areas.

This is particularly important in our district which has two distinct “sub-market” areas: one in the city with professional services and offices, and another at the Coast where there is more industrial space.

The Economic Development and Tourism Study 2020 showed that 136,700sqm (or 29.7ha) of new business space is needed over the period of the new Local Plan to 2040. Although this figure is lower than the amount of space planned for in the current Local Plan, the report shows deliverability risks with some of the existing allocated employment sites.

Many of these sites have not been developed, and some have already been lost to other uses. There may be potential to expand or intensify existing business areas, which can be quicker than developing totally new sites.

These risks were highlighted in the issues consultation last year. There were many comments that new business space needs to be accessible by sustainable transport. This will support both inward investment and a shift towards low carbon travel.

A consistent message from the consultation was that new jobs must be created alongside housing growth to achieve sustainable economic growth.

Issue EMP1‌. ‌How should we ensure that ‌enough business‌ ‌space‌ is provided in the right locations to support growth?

Option‌ ‌EMP1A‌ ‌-‌ ‌Continue‌ ‌with‌ ‌current‌ ‌economic‌ ‌strategy‌ ‌and‌ ‌land‌ allocations‌

The current strategy focuses employment growth in the strategic development areas and at employment allocations in Herne Bay.

This option would see the new Local Plan continue this approach to 2040, without any new or alternative allocations.

Many of these sites remain well located for business purposes, and the oversupply of space allows for some flexibility to respond to changing economic conditions.

Option‌ ‌EMP1B‌ ‌-‌ ‌Continue‌ ‌with‌ ‌current‌ ‌economic‌ ‌strategy‌ ‌and‌ ‌land‌ ‌allocations,‌ ‌but‌ ‌remove sites ‌with‌ ‌significant‌ ‌deliverability‌ ‌risks‌ ‌

The Economic Development and Tourism Study 2020 identifies concerns around the delivery of key sites, including:

  • Altira Park, Herne Bay
  • Eddington Park, Herne Bay
  • Sturry Road

An oversupply of employment land provides some flexibility to the market, but the concerns around deliverability make it difficult to justify keeping these allocations in their current form. We may not be able to rely on them for the delivery of new business space during the period of the new Local Plan.

Removing these sites would focus the strategy on the more deliverable sites. It may also provide opportunities for other types of development to come forward in these areas.

Option‌ ‌EMP1C‌ – (preferred option) Retain‌ ‌the‌ ‌most‌ ‌deliverable‌ ‌sites‌ ‌from‌ ‌the‌ ‌current‌ ‌economic‌ ‌strategy‌ ‌and‌ ‌land‌ ‌allocations,‌ ‌consider mixed use development opportunities at other existing sites and potential for alternative sites more‌ ‌aligned‌ ‌to‌ ‌market‌ ‌needs‌; ‌provide‌ ‌more‌ ‌flexibility‌ ‌for‌ ‌existing‌ ‌employment‌ ‌areas‌ ‌to‌ ‌grow‌ ‌and‌ ‌intensify

As well as concerns about the delivery of some of the allocated employment sites the Economic Development and Tourism Study 2020 (EDTS) highlights concerns around the delivery of the full amount of employment land from some of the strategic development sites, such as at Strode Farm and Hillborough. The EDTS raises questions over whether the location of some of the existing allocations are aligned with the needs of the market.

Scaling back the current strategy would provide an opportunity to consider alternative sites which are more deliverable or more aligned to the needs of the market. For example, the EDTS shows that there is an undersupply of industrial space at Whitstable. There may be opportunities to provide more flexible co-working, office or meeting spaces in the urban areas.

There may be potential to expand or intensify some of the most successful existing employment and business areas, such as Lakesview. These types of development opportunities already have transport infrastructure in place. They could be quicker and easier to deliver than new business parks within strategic development areas, and could support additional business and job growth.

Providing opportunities for the right mix of jobs, including higher paid jobs

The types of jobs created in the district to 2040 will have an impact on the wellbeing of residents through income levels and skills development. We need to support the growth and success of key sectors, such as tourism and health and education, but also provide the right conditions for growth in sectors with high productivity levels to boost local incomes.

The new Local Plan will need to balance supporting the creation of higher value jobs while not restricting the creation of other job opportunities needed to support the economic growth of the district.

Jobs in the retail, hospitality, administration, health and education sectors make up almost 60% of the local economy. The value to the economy generated by each worker in some of these sectors is less than other higher value industries. In 2019 each job in the district was estimated to generate £44,600 of “output” each year. This is £7,100 lower than the UK average. This is also reflected in local employee earnings levels, which fall well below national averages.

The EDTS (2020) shows a need for land and premises for a range of business types over the period of the new Local Plan. This includes offices, industrial units and warehouses. There may be opportunities to provide co-working and flexible office space in urban areas, and for research and development employment related to the universities. This could help to create higher paid jobs.

During the Issues consultation many comments said that there was a lack of diverse, higher skilled and better paid jobs in the district. People said that the choice of employment is too narrow and dominated by a few sectors which generally provide lower paid jobs. Focusing on science and technology related jobs, potentially linked to the universities, could support graduate retention and improve local incomes.

Issue‌ ‌EMP2‌. ‌How can we provide opportunities for the right mix of jobs, including higher paid jobs, ‌to be created?

Option‌ ‌EMP2A‌ ‌-‌ ‌Identify‌ ‌specific‌ ‌opportunity‌ ‌sites‌ ‌for‌ ‌higher-value‌ ‌jobs‌ ‌creation,‌ ‌and‌ ‌set‌ ‌out‌ ‌detailed‌ ‌employment‌ ‌mixes‌ ‌for‌ ‌allocated‌ ‌employment‌ ‌sites‌

This option would set out clear requirements for each individual employment allocation site, based on the findings of the EDTS (2020) and an assessment of the suitability of each site to deliver particular types of jobs. This may involve setting a specific use for an individual site, such as for office development, or prescribing a specific mix of employment uses expected to be delivered within the site.

This approach aims to balance the delivery of new employment space across the different types of space needed to ensure there are suitable opportunities for high value job creation in the district to 2040.

Option‌ ‌EMP2B‌ ‌-‌ ‌Provide‌ ‌full‌ ‌market‌ ‌flexibility‌ ‌within‌ ‌identified‌ ‌employment‌ ‌sites‌ ‌

This option would try to minimise any requirements on employment development sites to deliver particular types of business space or uses. This enables a more responsive, flexible and dynamic approach to meeting the needs of the market at a given point in time.

Removing any prescription on the use or type of business space to be developed may improve the delivery prospects for some sites, particularly as the needs of the market can change rapidly. The provision of new business space would be led by market demand and conditions.

The potential downside to this approach is that a concentration of particular lower value or very different uses could prevent higher value industries from being established in that location. This may also limit the council’s ability to influence business activity at that location and have strategic oversight.

Option‌ ‌EMP2C‌ ‌- (preferred option) ‌Provide‌ ‌a‌ ‌blended‌ ‌approach‌ ‌with‌ ‌specific‌ ‌opportunity‌ ‌sites‌ ‌identified‌ ‌for‌ ‌higher‌ ‌paid‌ ‌jobs,‌ ‌while‌ ‌enabling‌ ‌significant‌ ‌flexibility‌ ‌on‌ ‌other‌ ‌identified‌ ‌employment‌ ‌sites‌

This option would seek to capitalise on opportunities for delivering higher paid jobs where sites for employment development are in locations suited to this type of activity. This might include providing activities related to the universities or flexible and co-working space in accessible urban locations.

Outside of these specific opportunity sites the approach for delivering new employment spaces would be responsive and market-led. This would enable greater flexibility and enhance deliverability over time.

Supporting the delivery of allocated employment sites

Although sites for new employment spaces can be identified within the Local Plan, how and when sites actually get developed can be difficult to predict. Some sites allocated for employment uses in the current Local Plan have not come forward as anticipated.

The new Local Plan will need to consider whether there are other ways we can support the delivery of the employment sites needed to meet demand, and support economic growth in the district.

We monitor how the supply of business space changes over time. In recent years this has been fairly static. Increasing levels of housing has been brought forward and it is important that, as a regional centre for jobs, the sites we identify for employment are being delivered alongside new homes.

The EDTS identifies that the delivery of new space has been affected by a number of factors including market, locational and viability issues. The viability of delivering new commercial space can be challenging. This is reflected in our Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) as business spaces are not charged the levy.

Alongside changes to the sites identified in the new Local Plan for business space, the EDTS also recommends that the Council finds ways to support employment delivery. This could include looking for funding opportunities and considering enabling development where a wider mix of uses, such as residential or other commercial development, could improve the overall chances of new business space being delivered.

Many comments raised concerns about the availability of jobs in the district. These concerns relate to the lack of higher paid jobs in the area. Some people commented that although lots of new homes are being delivered, this is not being matched by new business space. We need a clear strategy for delivering business space to support greater levels of inward investment.

Issue EMP3. How can we best support the delivery of allocated employment sites?

Option EMP3A – Continue with current approach to delivery

The current approach tries to maximise the flexibility for developers to bring employment allocations forward. There is no specific requirement for the developers of strategic sites for the timing or delivery of employment space.

Option EMP3B – Require that all strategic development sites provide serviced employment land and a delivery strategy

This option would set clear requirements for developers of strategic sites with employment spaces to provide this as serviced land. This would include vehicle access and utility provision to improve the chances employment spaces being delivered. Development proposals would be required to prepare a clear delivery strategy, setting out how and when the employment space will be delivered.

Option EMP3C – (preferred option) Secure serviced employment land and a delivery strategy as part of strategic development sites and consider opportunities for enabling development and Council support where employment allocations are not being delivered

This option would build on Option EMP3B and reflects the recommendations in the EDTS which highlights opportunities for the Council to take steps to intervene to support the delivery of employment space, especially where viability barriers exist. We could consider enabling development, such as other commercial or residential development, to support the delivery of employment space.

Improving ‌the‌ ‌accessibility‌ ‌and‌ ‌connectivity‌ ‌of‌ ‌employment‌ ‌areas‌

In planning for new business spaces we need to consider how to ensure they provide the right infrastructure and conditions to support businesses into the future. National policies encourage us to look at accommodating employment sites in the most accessible locations, for example close to sustainable transport hubs or as part of mixed use developments.

Jobs located within walking and cycling distance of where people live can help to support active travel and improve the health and wellbeing of residents.

High speed digital infrastructure, such as mobile and broadband, will be important to support business growth. This will be increasingly important if the shift to online working continues following the global health emergency. The new Local Plan provides an opportunity for us to require the delivery of high speed broadband infrastructure within new business developments, and encourage further investment in digital infrastructure for the district.

Improving digital infrastructure is a national priority with the latest programme looking to roll out gigabit-capable broadband. Broadband infrastructure is central to regional strategies to boost growth and productivity and support innovation. This includes in the Thames Estuary Production Corridor and the emerging Kent and Medway Enterprise and Productivity Strategy.

Delivering high speed broadband also features, alongside measures to improve opportunities for active travel and sustainable transport, within the Kent and Medway Low Emissions Strategy (2020) as a way to improve air quality, support climate change objectives and improve the health and wellbeing of residents. The County Council, and other organisations, are keen for new developments to have full fibre broadband infrastructure. The new Local Plan will need to set out an approach which enables this where appropriate.

Advanced mobile services, such as 5G, are also important. We expect infrastructure rollouts from mobile network providers to accelerate across the district through the local plan period.

Through the consultation, and during other conversations with local businesses, the quality of broadband and mobile services in the district were raised as potential barriers to economic growth and investment. Job growth, especially high value job growth, will need significant improvements to broadband speeds. The poor quality of local speeds has been highlighted during the global health emergency.

The council must make sure that new employment sites are digitally prepared and equipped before development. This avoids the need for expensive retrofitting of digital infrastructure in the future.

Congestion and air quality were also identified as significant constraints to the growth of the local economy. A number of comments said that new employment opportunities should be located in areas accessible by active travel and sustainable transport modes to reduce reliance on cars.

Issue EMP4. ‌How can we improve ‌the‌ ‌accessibility‌ ‌and‌ ‌connectivity‌ ‌of‌ ‌employment‌ ‌areas‌?

Option‌ ‌EMP4A‌ ‌-‌ ‌Enable‌ ‌new‌ ‌employment‌ ‌developments‌ ‌to‌ ‌provide‌ ‌digital‌ ‌infrastructure‌ ‌and‌ ‌sustainable‌ ‌transport‌ ‌connectivity‌ ‌in‌ ‌response‌ ‌to‌ ‌market‌ ‌demand‌ ‌

This option would minimise any prescriptive requirements for infrastructure delivery as part of new employment space. This enables developers to respond more flexibly to the needs of the market.

High speed broadband and future mobile services will be more important to some businesses than others. There may be some businesses that need locations which are not well served by sustainable transport. For example, logistics businesses may prioritise access to the strategic road network.

Enabling a more dynamic approach, on a site by site basis, may help to support the viable delivery of new employment spaces in the district.

Option‌ ‌EMP4B‌ ‌-‌ ‌Require‌ ‌all‌ ‌new‌ ‌employment‌ ‌developments‌ ‌to‌ ‌provide‌ ‌full‌ ‌fibre‌ ‌connections‌ ‌and‌ ‌be‌ ‌accessible‌ ‌by‌ ‌sustainable‌ ‌transport‌

This option would place mandatory requirements on all new employment developments to include full fibre to the premises connections. Exemptions may apply for very small or more remote sites. The approach would seek to maximise the potential for the fastest broadband speeds to be delivered within new employment sites.

This approach would include requirements to ensure new employment sites are accessible by sustainable transport modes and, where such infrastructure is not already in place, improvements would be required to ensure opportunities exist for access by walking, cycling and public transport. There may be limited exemptions for sites of a particular size or location.

Option‌ ‌EMP4C‌ ‌- (preferred option) ‌Require‌ ‌all‌ ‌new‌ ‌employment‌ ‌developments‌ ‌to‌ ‌provide‌ ‌full‌ ‌fibre‌ ‌connections‌ ‌and‌ ‌be‌ ‌accessible‌ ‌by‌ ‌sustainable‌ ‌transport,‌ ‌and‌ ‌ensure‌ ‌that‌ ‌all‌ ‌strategic‌ ‌development‌ ‌sites‌ ‌over‌ ‌300‌ ‌homes ‌incorporate‌ ‌some‌ ‌commercial‌ ‌development‌ ‌to‌ ‌reduce‌ ‌the‌ ‌need‌ ‌to‌ ‌travel‌

This option would build on the requirements set out in EMP4B which seeks to maximise the connectivity and accessibility of employment developments by ensuring that all strategic development sites incorporate some business and commercial space.

This approach provides opportunities for flexible work space, and potentially live work type units, to enhance the sustainability of new communities and to reduce the need to travel.

Improving the energy performance and carbon emissions of new commercial developments in the district

Commercial buildings comprise a wide range of form, usage and construction type. There is a need to reduce the carbon emissions from commercial buildings to net zero in line with national and regional commitments. This must be achieved through reducing the need for energy, replacing fossil fuels with low carbon energy sources and renewable energy generation.

The current Local Plan encourages energy efficiency in commercial buildings through the use of Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) standards. There are some BREEAM ‘outstanding’ buildings and at least one net zero emissions building in the district that have been constructed in the last few years.

Most new commercial buildings in the district are constructed to a BREEAM ‘very good’ standard. The average emissions generated from heating and powering them are 30 tonnes CO2 emissions per building per year.

The energy standards set in the Local Plan are important to enable commercial buildings to be built and modified to a net zero emissions standard.

Many people commented that new commercial buildings should be designed to be energy efficient and to contribute to the Council’s objectives for addressing climate change.

Issue EMP5. How can we improve the energy performance and carbon emissions of new commercial developments in the district?

Option EMP5A – Specify that all new commercial buildings must be designed to BREEAM Excellent

The BREEAM standard is used throughout the UK as a comprehensive evaluation or building design. Specifying ‘Excellent’ ensures that commercial buildings meet good all round sustainability standards including energy efficiency, carbon emissions and adapting to climate change.

The current Local Plan encourages projects in the district to aim for ‘Excellent’, the level below ‘Outstanding’. The majority achieve ‘Very Good’, the third level, which the current Local Plan allows. This option would be an improvement on the existing requirements but would not achieve the emissions reductions needed to achieve net zero in line with policy at a national and regional level.

Option EMP5B – Specify that all new commercial buildings must be designed to BREEAM Outstanding

This option would raise the standard for new commercial buildings. Additional efficiencies would be achieved through better insulation, protection from excessive solar gain and the full range of sustainability measures covered by the BREEAM assessment process.

This option would be a significant improvement on the existing requirements but it would not achieve the emissions reductions needed to achieve net zero in line with policy at a national and regional level.

Option EMP5C – Specify that all new commercial buildings, or change of use to commercial, must be designed to meet Level A or better on the Energy Performance Certificate using the Standard Assessment Procedure

This option would set a goal for the measured energy level of commercial buildings. Currently around 2% of district buildings are at level A standard, and only one building is level A+, which is a net zero standard.

This option would include a payment mechanism with a carbon price for any developments that do not achieve the standard. The payment would contribute to a fund to enable other decarbonisation works in the district.

Option EMP5D – (preferred option) Net zero now. Specify that all new commercial buildings, or change of use to commercial, must be designed to meet an A+ Energy Performance Certificate using the Standard Assessment Procedure

This option would set an immediate net zero standard for commercial buildings and would require designs to meet high air tightness levels, have ventilation with heat recovery, low carbon heating and onsite renewable energy generation. This would mean new development in the district would make a direct contribution to reducing district carbon emissions.

This option would include a payment structure with an appropriate carbon price for any developments that do not achieve the standard. The payment would contribute to a fund to enable other decarbonisation works in the district.

Supporting the development of our universities

Education is the largest sector in the district providing over 16,000 jobs in 2019. The sector has grown rapidly over the last 10 years and growth is forecast to continue over the period of the Local Plan to 2040.

Universities play a major role in the district’s economy. The Local Plan will need to set out a framework to support the sustainable growth and development of these institutions.

The universities have ambitious plans for development. Both the University of Kent and Canterbury Christ Church University have campus master plans which outline significant investments planned for the coming years.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had significant impacts on higher education over the past year, with many lectures moving online. This presents some future uncertainty.

Following the delivery of the Kent and Medway Medical School, the universities remain committed to improving the educational and student experience. They will continue to play a central role in the growth of the knowledge economy within the district.

Many people recognised the importance of the universities in supporting the economic growth of the district, in particular in relation to higher paid jobs, such as in research and development and technology.

Some concerns were raised about the impact of Covid-19, including the implications for purpose built student accommodation. People also commented that more needs to be done to encourage students to stay in the district after graduating.

Issue EMP6. How should we support the development of our universities?

Option EMP6A – Continue with current approach to university development

The current approach provides support to the development of facilities within the University of Kent campus, and at suitable locations within the urban area for Canterbury Christ Church University. This is subject to matters such as design and transport. In the case of the University of Kent the current Local Plan advocates the preparation of a campus master plan ahead of any significant development proposals.

This approach provides flexibility, as well as support to the universities to develop and improve their facilities over the period of the Local Plan.

Option EMP6B (preferred option) – Align the Local Plan with the growth plans of the universities

Alongside high level support, which recognises the strategic importance of the universities to the local economy, this option would take a more proactive approach to support the delivery of the universities’ growth ambitions. It sets a clear policy framework for growth and, where appropriate, embedding elements of the university’s master plans within the Local Plan itself.

This approach would provide more certainty to the universities, and to communities, regarding the level and type of development anticipated over the period of the Local Plan to 2040.

Supporting the delivery of new, high quality ‌tourist‌ ‌accommodation‌ ‌to‌ ‌boost‌ ‌overnight‌ ‌stays‌ ‌and‌ ‌support‌ ‌the‌ ‌local‌ ‌economy‌

The district’s visitor economy, prior to the pandemic, had continued to perform well with a diverse offer including cultural heritage, coastline, countryside and food and drink.

Further growth is anticipated. However, there is a recognised need to provide more visitor accommodation of different types and locations to convert more day visits into overnight stays.

The global health emergency has had a significant impact on the tourism sector given the restrictions on movement. The Local Plan provides opportunities to support the recovery and continued growth of this sector.

The hospitality sector accounted for 8,600 jobs in 2019 and was the second largest sector in the district. The EDTS (2020) forecasts significant growth in hospitality over the period of the new Local Plan with the potential for creating another 1,200 jobs.

Converting more day trips to overnight stays through the providing additional accommodation is an important way to maximise the economic benefit of tourism and support the local economy.

The EDTS (2020) identifies a need for more tourist accommodation at all quality levels across the district. The study highlights a specific need for “meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions” (MICE) accommodation. This echoes the findings of the Kent Accommodation Study undertaken by Visit Kent and Locate in Kent.

There is also demand for more hotel accommodation at the coast, where we have seen interest in creating new hotels and expansions to existing facilities. There is also an increase in Air BnB type accommodation in Whitstable.

There is further potential in the rural areas of the district, linked to a rise in wellness and food and drink based tourism.

Although many people were keen to see the diversification of the economy, to create more highly paid jobs, there was a clear message that we need to support the tourism and hospitality sector. This sector is seen as one of our key strengths.

Attracting more visitors to stay overnight will provide both tourism jobs as well as support other parts of the local economy. The district has some world class assets in terms of its historic and natural environment. Providing tourist accommodation should help to realise the economic benefit of these assets.

Another message which came through the consultation was about the potential impacts of an over concentration of Air BnB type accommodation. The Kent Accommodation Study found that the district has the highest provision in Kent. People commented that this can impact the quality of life of residents living in the district. The local rise of Air BnB may also point to a lack of other appropriate, purpose built accommodation in the area.

I‌ssue EMP7. ‌How can we support the delivery of new, high quality ‌tourist‌ ‌accommodation‌ ‌to‌ ‌boost‌ ‌overnight‌ ‌stays‌ ‌and‌ ‌support‌ ‌the‌ ‌local‌ ‌economy‌?

Option‌ ‌EMP7A – ‌Focus‌ ‌tourist‌ ‌accommodation‌ ‌within‌ ‌or‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌edge‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌town‌ ‌and‌ ‌city‌ ‌centres‌

This option would see a continuation of the approach set out in the current Local Plan, which directs new accommodation to the town and city centres.

National planning policies identify tourist developments as main town centre uses. The centres are highly accessible, including by public transport, and these areas will accommodate many of the key attractions and be a focus for economic activity related to tourism. Hotels can also be excellent catalysts for urban regeneration and renewal by revitalising tired or obsolete sites and properties.

The centres are highly constrained and this approach may restrict opportunities to deliver more accommodation across the district as a whole. Sites on the edge of town and city centres may also provide feasible locations for this use.

Option‌ ‌EMP7B – ‌Focus‌ ‌tourist‌ ‌accommodation‌ ‌within‌, ‌or‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌edge‌ ‌of‌, ‌the‌ ‌town‌ ‌and‌ ‌city‌ ‌centres‌ ‌and‌ ‌identify‌ ‌specific‌ ‌opportunity‌ ‌sites‌ ‌for‌ ‌‌tourist‌ ‌accommodation‌ ‌outside‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌city‌ ‌and‌ ‌town‌ ‌centres,‌ ‌where‌ ‌justified,‌ ‌to‌ ‌support‌ ‌economic‌ ‌growth‌ ‌such as ‌for‌ ‌meetings‌ ‌and‌ ‌conference‌ ‌accommodation‌

This option would keep the focus in the city and town centres but would respond more proactively to the need for additional accommodation, where appropriate sites are available, for allocation in the new Local Plan.

A good example of this would be the potential for a new hotel and conference centre at the University of Kent campus, to meet the identified need for MICE accommodation. The proposal is contained within the 2019 university master plan and could generate significant economic benefits for the district. Other operators specialise in accommodation along major road corridors and business parks, so this option would ensure these needs can also be supported where appropriate.

There may also be opportunities for allocations to provide additional accommodation at the coast, where this could support the tourism sector. This will be important when development opportunities cannot be accommodated in the urban areas while also re-balancing provision to avoid an over concentration of Air BnB type accommodation.

Option‌ ‌EMP7C – (preferred option) Maintain‌ ‌support‌ ‌for‌ ‌city‌ ‌and‌ ‌town‌ ‌centre‌ ‌accommodation‌ ‌provision and ‌identify‌ ‌specific‌ ‌opportunity‌ ‌sites‌ ‌elsewhere,‌ ‌where‌ ‌justified,‌ ‌and‌ ‌provide‌ ‌increased‌ ‌flexibility‌ ‌for‌ ‌tourist‌ ‌accommodation‌ ‌across‌ ‌the‌ ‌district,‌ ‌including‌ ‌within‌ ‌the‌ ‌rural‌ ‌areas,‌ ‌to‌ ‌respond‌ ‌to‌ ‌market‌ ‌demand

This option would build on the approach set out at EMP5B, but with the additional flexibility to enable tourist accommodation across the district including rural areas. Given the constrained nature of our town and city centres this would improve the prospects for accommodation delivery within the district.

Sites located towards the edge of the urban areas, with sustainable transport connections into the centres, may be well placed to provide new accommodation.

Given the rising popularity of rural breaks related to health and wellbeing, and to local food and drink, there may be increased demand for accommodation within the rural areas over the period of the new Local Plan. These could take the form of spa hotels or retreats, and increase demand for conversions and extensions to existing facilities. It may be challenging to identify specific opportunity sites for accomodation in these locations, but this approach could support proposals of an appropriate scale and form where they have a clear benefit to the local economy.

Supporting the growth and development of the‌ ‌rural‌ ‌economy‌

Canterbury has large areas which are rural or semi rural. The District’s rural areas play a significant role in the local economy.

The district has high grade agricultural land. Farming and food and drink production businesses dominate large parts of the rural landscape. The district has seen growth in the number of vineyards in recent years including Simpsons Wine Estate in Barham, and the Chartham Vineyard. Food and drink production in the district also generates tourist trips. The Local Plan will need to provide the right conditions to realise and maintain the benefits of this.

A number of business parks are located in rural areas including at Highland Court and Barham. Business units in rural areas can provide jobs for local people and support the local economy more generally. For example, Chartham based Mansfield Farms Group is the largest fruit producer in the UK. Highland Court is home to fresh produce supplier A Gomez Ltd. This firm has £180 million annual turnover, a growing global export market and has expanded its local operations significantly in recent years. As key suppliers to major supermarket chains, including Tesco, local firms have a major role to play in securing and increasing UK domestic food production.

Businesses based in the villages improve the sustainability of our rural settlements as they provide employment opportunities for rural residents, reducing their need to travel longer distances for work. Given the congestion and air quality issues around the district’s urban areas, and the changes in working patterns emerging from the global health emergency, the new Local Plan will need to support the development of employment opportunities within the rural areas, where this can be accommodated.

The EDTS (2020) examines the role of the agricultural sector in the district, and identifies that 1,370 jobs were supported in the District’s farming, food and drink sector in 2018.

Although the number of jobs in agriculture has remained relatively stable across Kent in recent years employment in alcoholic beverage production has doubled since 2009. Food and drink business growth in Canterbury district has outpaced Kent and England wide averages in recent years.

Significant growth is expected in wine production across the UK over the period of the Local Plan. There is clear potential for growth in wine tourism, especially where this is effectively linked and marketed with other vineyards nearby, such as through the Wine Garden of England initiative. The Local Plan may provide more emphasis on the sustainable growth of food and drink production industries to support both the direct benefits and the more indirect benefits through tourism.

Most established local rural business parks, such as Barham and Highland Court, are well occupied and the EDTS identifies that there may be some scope for intensification and expansion subject to matters such as highways and landscape impacts. Although there may be sufficient business space already available to meet anticipated demand in the rural areas, flexibility around the provision of new business space could encourage business growth and expansion. This may be needed to support the shift away from traditional working patterns such as through flexible work space.

Evidence from a number of recent planning applications has demonstrated an appetite from a range of successful business uses for growth and expansion at rural locations, such as Aether Medical at CMA Industrial Park in Chartham Hatch.

Many people recognise the need to continue to support the agricultural sector, although this was often in terms of protecting land from development. It was also felt that local food and drink producers should be promoted and supported more. This can be a key component of the district’s tourism offer in the future.

Broadband speeds in rural areas remain a key issue for the district, but improvements should help to support rural businesses, particularly given the changes being seen to working patterns as a result of the global health emergency.

Some people commented about the need for rural hubs to be developed to enable residents in the rural areas to access jobs and facilities locally, without needing to travel into the urban areas.

Issue EMP8. ‌How should we support the growth and development of the‌ ‌rural‌ ‌economy‌?

Option‌ ‌EMP8A – ‌Continue the current approach to focus‌ ‌new‌ ‌rural‌ ‌employment‌ ‌development‌ ‌within‌ ‌existing‌ ‌employment‌ ‌sites

The current approach seeks to focus employment developments at existing sites. This protects sites from redevelopment for other uses and supports the expansion of existing businesses in these areas.

Option‌ ‌EMP8B – (preferred option)  ‌Provide‌ ‌increased‌ ‌flexibility‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌provision‌ ‌of‌ ‌rural‌ ‌employment‌ ‌development‌ ‌within and outside‌ ‌of‌ ‌sustainable rural settlements,‌ ‌adjacent‌ ‌to‌ ‌existing‌ ‌employment‌ ‌sites‌ ‌and‌ ‌provide‌ ‌specific‌ ‌support‌ ‌to‌ ‌new‌ ‌agricultural‌ ‌developments

This option would provide additional opportunities for the development of commercial space within the rural areas, including nearby to the more sustainable rural settlements, such as the Rural Service Centres, to support local employment opportunities.

This approach reflects national planning policies and would recognise that sites for commercial space may be needed outside of settlements. The approach supports the appropriate expansion of existing rural employment sites, subject to considerations such as transport and landscape.