Draft Thanet Local Plan - 2031 - Pre-Submission Publication, Regulation 19

1 - Job Growth Strategy

1.1 The Local Plan's job growth strategy sets out how the Thanet's economy should grow, develop and create new jobs and prosperity over the plan period. The strategy is based upon a positive and optimistic level of growth. The strategy explains where the growth is expected to take place, and what the Local Plan is doing to support this, alongside the Economic Growth Strategy for Thanet November 2016.

1.2 One of the core principles of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is to proactively drive and support sustainable economic development to deliver the homes, business and industrial units, infrastructure and thriving local places that the country needs. It states that planning authorities should set out a clear economic vision and strategy for their areas which positively and proactively encourage sustainable growth, identify strategic sites to meet anticipated needs over the plan period, support existing business sectors and plan for new and emerging sectors. Policies should be flexible to accommodate needs not anticipated and to allow rapid responses to changes in the economy. It also states that clusters or networks of knowledge-driven, creative high-technology industries should be planned for, priority areas for economic regeneration and infrastructure provision, and environmental enhancement should be identified, and flexible working practices such as the integration of residential and commercial uses within the same unit should be facilitated.

1.3 It further states that plans should avoid the long term protection of sites allocated for employment use where there is no reasonable prospect of the site being used for that purpose. The Council has reviewed all allocated employment sites and has retained only those which are in accordance with the NPPF.

1.4 The NPPF states that plans should recognise town centres as the heart of their communities and support their vitality and viability, promote competitive town centres that provide customer choice and a diverse retail offer, retain and enhance existing markets and introduce new ones, and allocate a range of suitable sites to meet the scale and type of retail, leisure, commercial, office, tourism, cultural, community and residential development needed.

1.5 The NPPF also states that Local Plans should support the sustainable growth and expansion of all types of business and enterprise in the rural areas, promote the development and diversification of agricultural and other land based rural businesses, support sustainable rural tourism and leisure developments that benefits businesses in the rural area and promote the retention and development of local services and community facilities. The Plan's evidence base should assess the needs of the food production industry and any barriers to investment that planning can resolve.

1.6 Thanet has a diverse economy which is currently strong in the education and health sectors and traditionally has seen above average representation of retail and public administration. Evidence shows that the tourism is doing very well and is gaining momentum year on year. Green technology is currently doing well and advanced manufacturing technologies are expected to increase in the district.

1.7 Thanet's business parks have been slow to develop leaving a significant amount of land available which in itself is an opportunity. This land is beginning to be delivered which is positive but as evidence suggests that only 30% of future jobs will be in traditional office, industrial and warehouse (Class B) type uses that are often located on business parks and, a more flexible approach to Thanet's employment land is required. A range of employment sites is needed to cater for all types of employment generating development.

1.8 Thanet also benefits from an international port which offers significant potential to deliver job growth and connections to Europe. Ramsgate Port is a major infrastructure asset and potential catalyst for growth. It is important for the manufacturing and green sectors and as a wharf for the movement of minerals. The Council supports the growth of port related uses and would wish ultimately to see the reintroduction of a roll-on/roll-off passenger ferry service.

1.9 Tourism has historically been at the heart of Thanet's economy and continues to be a vitally important component of Thanet's economy along with retail and leisure which have been particularly strong. Thanet's strength in the visitor economy stems from the attractive sandy beaches in close proximity to London, the established successful tourist destination of Broadstairs, the development of the Turner Contemporary Gallery and the strong character of Thanet as a traditional tourist destination. Thanet also contains a wealth of heritage assets which are attractive to visitors with around 2,000 listed buildings.

1.10 The most recent tourism research commissioned by Visit Kent shows the total economic impact of tourism in Thanet was £293 million in 2015. A good visitor economy can also provide benefits for Thanet residents in terms of leisure facilities, attractive public realm and quality of life which in turn attract business to the area. It is therefore of primary importance to support the tourism economy.

1.11 In delivering growth in tourism, the main challenge is to increase visitor spend in Thanet, which can be achieved by encouraging the overnight visitor and developing more of a year-round offer. The Council is committed to addressing this and has adopted a Destination Management Plan (DMP) which focuses on individual projects bringing together a variety of stakeholders to improve beach management, facilitate coastal regeneration and develop a shared story to improve marketing for visitors.

1.12 In Thanet's town centres there is opportunity to capitalise on heritage assets and cultural and creative industries, creating vibrant hubs of innovation and entrepreneurship. This is increasingly the trend in Margate, particularly the Old Town which is has a number of cultural and creative industries. Research from 2016 has found that creative businesses in Thanet have grown by 84% in four years.

1.13 Thanet's manufacturing base has traditionally been characterised by small scale business which are fundamentally important to Thanet's economy and it is imperative that existing and new micro businesses are supported. These smaller manufacturing firms require smaller industrial units and it is, therefore, important within the strategy to protect our existing fit for purpose sites. There also has to be consideration of grown on space as local businesses grow and require larger premises. This will keep successful businesses local to the area and provide economic sustainability.

1.14 30% of overall job growth is still likely to be from the development in B use classes found on business parks. Many existing businesses in Thanet need space for growth and the availability of suitable premises is a challenge to be overcome, particularly the availability of spec units which individual companies do not have the capacity to build.

1.15 There has been growth in low carbon goods and services, renewable energy, advanced manufacturing and service businesses. These sectors are likely to deliver some job growth over the plan period. Thanet has already seen above average development of offshore wind farms, solar farms, anaerobic digesters and other renewable sources of energy production particularly located around the former Richborough Power Station site. Thanet Earth is a prime example of cutting edge "agritech" technology. It is important that sufficient employment land is available to facilitate any future growth.

1.16 Improving education and skills in Thanet in partnership with the private sector is an important part of growing the economy. The Plan seeks to support the provision of these facilities particularly the expansion and diversification of further and higher education.

1.17 Canterbury Christ Church University is pioneering the STEM agenda by operating as Kent & Medway STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) providing information and links to STEM Enhancement & Enrichment (E&E) activities. This enables young people to make informed decisions about future career paths in and from STEM, provides teachers with impartial information and support to enable them to deliver STEM curriculum, support industry in reducing the STEM skills gap and raises the profile of science and engineering in the region. This is a significant opportunity for the area.

1.18 Thanet's current employment offer and relatively peripheral location combined with improving transport and communications infrastructure means that a certain level of commuting is expected. Currently the majority of working age people that live in Thanet work in Thanet but a significant number commute to the neighbouring districts of Dover and Canterbury, as well as further afield. Improved rail linkages in the future could expand this. This is not necessarily a harmful trend as it brings wealth to the area and better access to jobs which increases local consumer spend, further strengthening the retail and leisure professions. It is envisaged particularly that the Discovery Park Enterprise Zone established in Sandwich following the closure of the Pfizer pharmaceutical plant, will impact upon out commuting levels, but its close proximity to Thanet is beneficial in terms of retention of wealth in the area as well as potential relocation of firms to Thanet's nearby employment sites. The proximity of the Enterprise Zone to Thanet is positive for employment and Thanet's economic strategy takes account of this in order to complement Discovery Park and benefit from it.

1.19 Thanet has 7 rural settlements with a population of around 6,000 residents which make up just 4% of the population. The employment land review concludes that Thanet has quite a low representation of rural employment enterprises when compared to the rest of the south east with less than 10% of VAT registered premises being located in the rural areas. Nonetheless the Council wishes to support rural economic development of an appropriate scale.

1.20 Thanet currently has a high proportion of people who work from home. With anticipated growth in housing it is considered that with appropriate digital infrastructure and business support those sustainable enterprising communities can be created.

1.21 Given that Thanet has a diverse economy a flexible economic strategy is needed in order to accommodate all employment generating uses. Future job growth in Thanet is expected to remain strong in town centre uses, as well as in public administration and education. Thanet is a popular retirement area and this brings with it benefits to the economy particularly in terms of the health and caring professions which are expected to grow.

1.22 The Economic Growth Strategy for Thanet identified transformational initiatives to focus on to deliver employment growth. These are:

  • Developing the Port at Ramsgate
  • Investing in high value manufacturing and engineering across Thanet and east Kent
  • Position Thanet as a global agritech hub
  • Promoting Thanet's broader cultural/leisure offer
  • Cultivating the creative industries across Thanet
  • Designing enterprise into new communities
  • Long term feasibility modelling for Margate and Ramsgate

1.23 The overall target is to deliver a minimum of 5,000 jobs across the district during the plan period to 2031 concentrating on the transformational initiatives coupled with improved transport and communications infrastructure.

1.24 Job growth in the district will be supported, promoted and delivered by;

  • supporting the growth of port related uses at Ramsgate Port.
  • allocation and retention of employment land and premises that are fit for purpose across the district;
  • flexibility of uses on some employment land;
  • allocation of vibrant town centres able to accommodate a wide range of compatible uses reflecting their individual characters and economies;
  • recognising the important role of cultural and creative industries in the regeneration and reinvigoration of Thanet's towns;
  • being flexible with regard to holiday accommodation reflected and supported by the Council's Destination Management Plan;
  • providing for cultural and creative industries within the town centres
  • providing suitable and sufficient employment land to support growth in advanced manufacturing; and
  • nurturing workforce skills by supporting education and skills facilities.

1.25 It is not possible to predict or plan specifically for the needs of all significant job creating development proposals that may arise over the lifetime of the Plan and only 30% or employment growth is expected to be in the B use classes that are traditionally located on business parks. The Council wishes to plan positively for all kinds of employment generating development taking account of relevant environmental and countryside policies and the aspirations of the strategic priorities. Account will also be taken of prospective benefits arising from additional and better paid local employment.

The following policy sets out the Job Growth Strategy for this Plan.

Policy SP02 - Economic Growth

A minimum of 5,000 additional jobs is planned for in Thanet to 2031.

The aim is to accommodate inward investment in job creating development, the establishment of new businesses and expansion and diversification of existing firms. Sufficient sites and premises suited to the needs of business are identified and safeguarded for such uses. Manston Business Park is the key location for advanced manufacturing and large scale job creating development.

Land is identified and allocated to accommodate up to 53.5ha of employment space over the period to 2031. Land and premises considered suitable for continued and future employment use will be identified and protected for such purpose.

Thanet's town centres are priority areas for regeneration and employment generating development, including tourism and cultural diversification, will be encouraged.

The growth of the Port of Ramsgate is supported as a source of employment and as an attractor of inward investment.

New tourism development, which would extend or upgrade the range of tourist facilities particularly those that attract the staying visitor, increase the attraction of tourists to the area and extend the season, will be supported.

Development is supported that enhances the rural economy subject to protecting the character, quality and function of Thanet's rural settlements and natural environments.