West Suffolk Local Plan (Regulation 18) Issues and Options October 2020

Part 2 - local issues

Part 2 - 4. Employment

4.1. West Suffolk is home to a diverse range of employment opportunities and the economic activity rates for the district have grown in recent years, although this growth has not been evenly distributed.

4.2. The main centres of employment are very different in character. Bury St Edmunds acts as a service hub for the surrounding towns and villages. The United States air bases at Mildenhall and Lakenheath have a significant civilian workforce, Haverhill has a strong manufacturing base, and Newmarket is the international home of horseracing.

4.3. The working age population (16 to 64) accounts for 60 per cent of the total population for West Suffolk and of these people, 81.2 per cent are economically active. This compares with a national figure of 78.9 per cent of the working age population being economically active (ONS annual population survey 2019).

4.4. Although average earnings of residents in the district are close to the national average, the level of pay within the district falls below the national average (Nomis 2019). This disparity can be partly explained by the fact that many places within the district are within commuting distance of Cambridge which offers wider employment opportunities. Despite this West Suffolk remains a net in-commuting destination.

4.5. Skills and education are a key factor in driving economic growth. The 2011 census data indicate that West Suffolk has a higher proportion of residents with no qualifications (23.52 per cent) and a lower proportion of residents with level 4 qualifications (22.68 per cent) than the average for East England (22.53 per cent and 25.72 per cent) and England as a whole (20.72 per cent and 27.38 per cent).

Residents’ skills and qualifications (2011 Census)

Part 2 - employment table

Implications of the sustainability appraisal (SA) scoping report information

4.6. The SA scoping report identifies the following key sustainability issues:

  • Maintaining high economic activity rates, supporting the resident population with good access to a variety of job opportunities.
  • Improving educational attainment to support future employees in the district.

Issues for the local plan

Growing the local economy

4.7. As previously stated, people commute into West Suffolk for jobs but there is also a significant element of out-commuting.

4.8. In order to address this situation there are a number of issues to be investigated for the local plan around where and how much employment land should be provided in the district, how many jobs are being created and sustained by local businesses, and what type of jobs these are, or may be in the future.

Coast to Coast fish trader Brandon market (2020)
Brandon market - Coast to Coast fish trader (2020)

Employment land requirement

4.9. The NPPF makes sustainable economic growth a key issue for plan making. Site allocations for employment uses should be reviewed regularly to ensure the most appropriate sites are protected for employment uses to meet the business needs of West Suffolk. It should be noted that when the NPPF and local plans use the term ‘employment use’ and ‘employment land’ this refers to B use class development only (as defined by the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended)).

4.10. A full employment land review will be carried out as part of the preparation of the Local Plan to assess the employment needs in the district to 2040.

Ensuring the right type of employment land is provided in the right location

4.11. Much of the land currently allocated for employment is located close to the main towns on the A11/A14 corridor, but a number of smaller employment sites are maintained in the rural area together with a larger site at the former airfield at Shepherd’s Grove Industrial estate in Stanton.

4.12. As explained above, employment uses refer only to B use classes. There are however, other uses that provide job opportunities across the district and it is appropriate to consider these types of uses alongside traditional B use class employment development. Such examples would include food and drink outlets, leisure uses including gyms, cultural facilities and childcare facilities. Together with main town centre uses, these types of facilities provide services and local employment opportunities which make a significant contribution to the local economy. This document contains further information on town centre uses in the section on retail, leisure and wellbeing.

4.13. Where sites allocated for employment have had a slow take up rate this local plan will look at why development has not come forward and consider whether certain sites should remain allocated for employment uses or for a different purpose.

(Haverhill Industrial Estate)
Haverhill Industrial Estate