Abbots Leigh, Ham Green, Pill and Easton-in-Gordano Neighbourhood Plan consultation on submitted Neighbourhood Plan

Abbots Leigh, Ham Green, Pill and Easton-in-Gordano Neighbourhood Plan

9 Economy and employment

Primary Objective
Support the generation of local jobs for local people.

9.1  Abbots Leigh, Ham Green, Pill & Easton-in-Gordano are often perceived as areas of limited economic activity and jobs, functioning as commuter satellites with heavy peak hour traffic especially to and from Bristol. This fails to recognise the scale of the local economy and the number of local jobs. The 2011 Census showed 2,829 residents aged 16-74 actively engaged in economic activity (full or part time employment, self-employed or unemployed) with 1,238 residents inactive (retired, long term carer, sick or disabled). Of those actively engaged 54.1% were in full employment, 21.6% in part-time employment and 16.7% self-employed. Of industrial sectors, health and social work (14.0%), wholesale, retail and vehicle repair (13.5%), education (9.4%) and construction (8.5%) were the major areas of work for local residents. Around 20% of residents work from home (37).

9.2 In mid-2019 there were 104 businesses within the Neighbourhood Plan Area,(38) The largest being Royal Portbury Dock. The Bristol Port Company estimates that Royal Portbury Dock accounts for around two thirds of the 10,000 jobs across the two docks (Royal Portbury plus Avonmouth) of which 600 are direct Bristol Port Company employees and the remainder in port and dock related businesses.(39).

The Eden Business Park at Ham Green has 43 business sites providing over a thousand jobs and with 320 car park spaces and significant traffic. There are both major employers and smaller firms.

The Old Brewery Business Park provides office space in converted brewery premises for fifteen businesses which generate around 120 jobs The Old Brewery offers accessibility to the M5, on-site parking, up to date and reasonably priced office accommodation and a pleasant ‘out of Bristol’ environment housing a gym.

(37) See Neighbourhood Plan Background Paper 2, para 3.2
(38) A local count was taken in 2018 of businesses in operation. A full list is in Background Paper 5
(39) The timing and specific location of work-shifts in the docks depends on the volume and type of port traffic and, crucially, on the tide. The level and timing of work at Royal Portbury Dock thus varies


The Pill Precinct. There are a number of retail outlets on the Precinct. A local business survey evidenced 21 business premises, with 12 leased, largely from Alliance Homes. Local employment was 67 with 20 male and 47 female jobs and 36 full-time/31 part-time jobs.

Elsewhere there is significant employment at the Abbots Leigh Nursing Home (78 jobs), Penny Brohn (80 jobs), Leigh Court (180 jobs) and Freeways (40 jobs). Education and Health provide further employment at St Katherine’s School and Crockerne Primary School over 150 jobs), at Heywood Family Practice (30 jobs), at Avon Fire and Rescue in Pill (16 jobs), and at Brackenwood Garden Centre (30 jobs).

There are also workshop clusters at Cross Lanes Farm, Markham Farm, Normans Way (in Royal Portbury Dockland) with individual businesses of various sizes and activities. Such places offer a flexible base for non-office-based businesses to start up and establish themselves.

Food production is also important in the Neighbourhood Area, making use of the open land which the Green Belt helps to protect. With six active farms there is considerable farmland grazed by dairy or meat livestock. The production of vegetable produce (as at the Pill Allotments, the Community Orchard or Leigh Court Farm play a further – and increasing part. Food grown in individual gardens for local consumption will become more important. When the emphasis is on ‘local jobs for local people’ the role of food production contributes helpfully to sustainability.

Adding in estimated jobs across the Plan area - public houses, farms, garages, garden centres etc.- together with those working from, or at, home (200 residents), the total number of jobs in the Neighbourhood Plan 40 Fuller estimates of employment at Eden Park, the Old Brewery and the Precinct are provided in Neighbourhood Plan Background Paper 5, para 2Area, excluding the docks, is estimated to amount to around 1,700. Royal Portbury Dock adds around a further 6,000-7,000.(40)

9.2 As transport statistics demonstrate (see Chapter 6) there is much commuting in and out of the Area. The Neighbourhood Plan Area represents an active, open local labour market with around 8,000 job opportunities supplied in part by a labour force of almost 3,000 economically active residents. Taking account of what is known about travel to work patterns (again see Chapter 6) our estimate is that there are almost 1,000 local jobs for local people.

The Neighbourhood Plan Area is a good place for business – close to Bristol, with access to the M5 and a forthcoming rail link to Bristol Temple Meads station. Much business is stable and likely to be present for the long-term (e.g. at Royal Portbury Dock, in local retail and in agricultural related business), but there is also business and labour market ‘churning’ as businesses grow and decline, move in and out, and recruit or lay-off employees.

9.3 There is significant working from home (7% of those at work) and this represents a strongly developing sector of the local economy with economic, social and environmental benefits. The digital future will be one that facilitates connected social and economic life between public and private business workplaces and the home. Digital fibre connection of high quality to homes and workplaces is of growing importance with upgrading to 5G as soon as practicable. Support for home working – extensions for ‘office’ use, for example - are to be supported, but our concerns about inappropriate design standards evident in current conversions of huts and barns remain crucial (see 5.9 above). Equally the indiscriminate conversion of commercial properties to residential use can easily result in substandard accommodation.

(40) Fuller estimates of employment at Eden Park, the Old Brewery and the Precinct are provided in Neighbourhood Plan Background Paper 5, para 2

9.4 Eden Business Park currently (October 2020) has vacancies, together with some undeveloped land. Local consultation suggested that this might be released for housing. The prospects for the economy are uncertain, but the Steering Group took the view that, whilst opportunities for housing should be kept under review, for the plan period to 2026 releasing employment land was inappropriate. The current North Somerset Core Strategy stresses the importance of safeguarding sites in existing economic use.

With post COVID-19 experience and enjoyment of the countryside and its environment there may be possibilities associated with visitors and eco-tourism. Welcoming visitors on bikes, on foot or on boats for a day trip to enjoy our footpaths and cycle paths, to visit farms, or to enjoy historic gardens would generate educational as well as recreational benefit. There is already a forest school in Abbots Leigh, the creek and marina at Pill might host trips out from Bristol, eco-tourism and agri-tourism might offer local employment opportunities. Initiatives which foster such activities will be supported.

One of the aims of the Neighbourhood Plan is to ‘help create the conditions in which businesses can invest and adapt’.(41) This includes ‘supporting a prosperous rural economy and ensuring the vitality of town centres’. The proposed care home/housing development at Ham Green (see Chapter 5) is likely to provide up to sixty new job opportunities, a number of which are expected to be local, and this development is welcome on employment as well as health and housing grounds. Across the area there are several farms and agricultural holdings which offer potential for conversion to residential or business 7uses. Residential conversion is covered by existing NSC policies but we would wish the potential for conversion to workshop or small business use to be supported.

9.5 Royal Portbury Dock, part of which lies within the Neighbourhood Plan Area, is a regional as well as a local asset. Bristol Port Company has particular land requirements which will be addressed in the new North Somerset Local Plan 38. Whilst there are no current plans for growth of the dock area within the Neighbourhood Plan Area, the dock has important implications for employment, traffic and environment – especially were Freeport status to arrive. Growth elsewhere (e.g. Shipway Farm) could generate further employment growth and traffic on the A369. NSC Core Strategy (CS24) currently says that further expansion of the Port within North Somerset is not supported, that the next longer-term development of the Port will occur on the northern side of the Avon and that no further land for port development within North Somerset will be allocated. The Neighbourhood Plan welcomes the economic growth of Royal Portbury Dock, but we would wish the economic benefits to be weighed against any traffic, environmental or air quality problems this might cause.

(41) National Planning Policy Framework Ch. 6 and 7uses. Residential conversion is covered by existing NSC policies but we would wish the potential for conversion to workshop or small business use to be supported.

Policies

Existing NSC Core Strategy and Development Management Policies address Supporting a prosperous economy (CS20), Retail hierarchy and provision (CS21), Royal Portbury Dock (CS 24), Proposals for economic development (DM 47), Royal Portbury Dock (DM 49), Agriculture and land-based rural business (DM 51).

Planning Policies

Emp 1
The conversion, extension or improvement of domestic buildings (including digital infrastructure) for home working is supported.

Emp 2
The conversion and re-use of redundant buildings (including vacant or under-used agricultural buildings) for workshops or small businesses is supported

Emp 3
Initiatives which create space for local start-up business, working hubs or internet hot-desking are supported.

Emp 4
Initiatives which draw in visitors or tourists and create local job opportunities are supported.

Emp 5
Changes of use outside of use class E would not be supported.

Emp 6
The redevelopment of land and buildings at Orchard View (Ham Green) as a mixed-use development with associated employment generation is supported.

Emp 7
Continued up-grading of digital infrastructure is encouraged across the area.

Community Action policies

CA/Emp 1 School/business links should be encouraged and more local job placements offered.

CA/Emp 2 Travel to work by public transport, by car-sharing and through the use of walking/cycling routes should be encouraged.

CA/Emp 3 Job vacancies and employment opportunities should be more widely advertised locally.