Suffolk Coastal Local Plan - Final Draft

Final Draft Local Plan

4 Economy

4.1 Suffolk Coastal is a unique District which makes a significant contribution to regional, national and international economies. This includes the presence of the Port of Felixstowe, Sizewell Nuclear Power Station and BT Adastral Park. The Local Plan supports these major economic drivers. It also supports complementary and broader business growth and enterprise across the District including the changing rural, agricultural and logistics economies.

4.2 The Government's 2017 Industrial Strategy places emphasis on supporting businesses to create better, higher paid employment and self-employment throughout the United Kingdom with investment in the skills, industries and infrastructure of the future. The Industrial Strategy seeks to ensure that every part of the country realises its full potential. The New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership has an ambitious desire to drive business growth and productivity and build the skills to enable the economies of Norfolk and Suffolk to prosper, with a high performing, productive economy. The Local Plan has a key role in the implementation of the economic visions to enable Suffolk Coastal to realise its potential.

4.3 The East Suffolk Economic Growth Plan 2018-23 sets out a vision to 'focus on building business confidence and with it, both the capacity and ambition of our businesses to invest and grow.' The Local Plan is a key contributor to this vision through the identification of appropriate land, premises and opportunities for economic growth.

4.4 Evidence prepared identifies that between 2001 and 2016, employment grew by 13.4% in Suffolk Coastal and the District is expected to see an increase in the number of jobs over the Local Plan period to 2036[1] . Suffolk Coastal has economic ambitions and the Local Plan sets out how the main economic drivers in the District can be supported, as well as providing the opportunities and conditions for small enterprises to start and flourish in the District and create better, higher paid employment.

4.5 Creating opportunities for businesses to invest and grow over the plan period can facilitate and develop training opportunities such as apprenticeship schemes and enhance skills prospects for the local community. Through the creation of further training and development opportunities, the District can experience economic growth by increasing skills, productivity and better paid employment prospects as well as jobs growth.

4.6 Suffolk Coastal District is well placed to embrace economic changes and opportunities over the plan period by providing a range of employment areas in suitably accessible locations.

4.7 The District is home to a number of large scale strategic businesses such as the Port of Felixstowe, Sizewell Nuclear Power Station and BT Campus at Adastral Park and it is important that the Local Plan responds to their needs. Not only are these businesses large employers but they also have a positive impact on the supply chains and related commercial activities in both Suffolk Coastal and the neighbouring authorities of Babergh, Ipswich, Mid Suffolk and Waveney as well the national and international economies.

4.8 The local economy is also diverse, made up of many small and medium enterprises that collectively provide a variety of economic opportunities, jobs and services. Planning policies reflect that over the Local Plan period new businesses and business sectors will emerge, as experienced in recent years, with the emergence of creative businesses and film technologies at locations like Rendlesham which has boosted the number of enterprises in Suffolk Coastal.

4.9 The mixture of large scale strategic businesses alongside small and medium enterprises reflects the economic potential across the District. The Local Plan needs to ensure that the economy is able to prosper and grow with a combination of suitable sites for serviced employment land and supporting infrastructure.

1. Ipswich Economic Area Sector Needs Assessment, September 2017 (Lichfields) [back]

Existing Employment Areas

4.10 To support the District's economy and realise the economic ambitions for the area as outlined in the Economic Strategy for Norfolk and Suffolk and the East Suffolk Economic Growth Plan, the Local Plan needs to identify and preserve a range of employment sites to achieve these ambitions. Previous Local Plans made a distinction between strategic and general employment areas. In reality this has made little difference to the development taking place so this Local Plan, based on consultation responses, simplifies the approach and uses the term Employment Areas for all sites. This approach should continue to create the conditions to facilitate business opportunities for investment, expansion and adaptation on a variety of sites across the District to deliver the economic vision for the District.

4.11 To ensure this happens over the plan period, it is therefore essential that the Local Plan ensures a flexible supply of land for a variety of employment sectors, targeted at the needs of businesses operating across the District including the delivery of start up units. For example, Port related operations in locations well related to the Port of Felixstowe or film and creative industries emerging at Rendlesham.

4.12 Area specific policies for existing Employment Areas are outlined in Neighbourhood Plans and Chapter 12 of the Local Plan and these secure employment development on a range of established sites and premises. Employment Area policies are found at:

  • Policy SCLP12.7: Port of Felixstowe
  • Policy SCLP12.8: Land at Bridge Road, Felixstowe
  • Policy SCLP12.9: Land at Carr Road/Langer Road, Felixstowe
  • Policy SCLP12.10: Land at Haven Exchange, Felixstowe
  • Policy SCLP12.21: Ransomes, Nacton Heath
  • Policy SCLP12.36: Former airfield Debach
  • Policy SCLP12.37: Carlton Park, Main Road, Kelsale cum Carlton
  • Policy SCLP12.38: Levington Park, Levington
  • Policy SCLP12.39: Land at Silverlace Green (former airfield) Parham
  • Policy SCLP12.40: Former airfield Parham
  • Policy SCLP12.41: Bentwaters Park, Rendlesham
  • Policy SCLP12.42: Riverside Industrial Estate, Border Cot Lane, Wickham Market

4.13 A variety of employment areas are identified in the Local Plan and Neighbourhood Plans to cater for the needs of all sectors in the District. Some of these are established sites with buildings and infrastructure already in place and covered by existing planning permissions or established lawful uses. The Local Plan allocates new employment areas close to the A14 at Felixstowe and at the Seven Hills junction of the A12 and A14, as well as expecting some employment development to come forward alongside the development of the garden neighbourhoods at Saxmundham and Felixstowe. In other locations, the policies support new employment development within Settlement Boundaries, along with appropriate development in the countryside, such as through conversions and farm diversification schemes.

4.14 Economic growth related to the logistics sector and the Port of Felixstowe can provide opportunities for strategic scale development. It is vitally important that the Local Plan can appropriately meet the current needs of the logistics sector and have the flexibility to meet future needs. In recent years the changing nature of customer demands such as online shopping and next day delivery expectations requires new technologies and patterns of distribution to meet the needs of these sectors operating across the District.

4.15 Policy SCLP4.1 also allows for quasi-retail uses such as car showrooms, tyre and exhaust centres and builders merchants on the main road frontages of Employment Areas. These uses are often not suitable in town centre locations due to their size and characteristics. If located within existing Employment Areas, conflicts between industrial traffic and general traffic can occur. Therefore a more appropriate location is on the main road frontages of these areas. These uses can sometimes improve the appearance of industrial areas, and by allowing them on existing employment areas, it provides a suitable developed location for these uses which are difficult to accommodate in town centres.

 

Policy SCLP4.1: Existing Employment Areas

Existing Employment Areas are identified in Area Specific Strategy Policies in Section 12 of the Local Plan and on the Policies Map or Neighbourhood Plans.

New development for employment uses which takes place during the plan period (including sites currently with consent for employment use) will be treated as existing Employment Areas for the purposes of this Policy and Policies SCLP4.2, SCLP4.3 and SCLP4.4.

Within existing Employment Areas, premises currently in B1, B2 and B8 use will be protected from change of use and redevelopment to other uses. Exceptionally, quasi-retail uses (not falling within use class A1) may be permitted on the main road frontages of Employment Areas which have good access to a range of transport options. Such development should not be detrimental to the efficient and effective use of the remainder of the Employment Area.

Outside of the existing Employment Areas, the redevelopment or change of use of existing employment premises will be considered under Policy SCLP4.4

Neighbourhood Plans may identify additional premises or clusters of premises outside of existing Employment Areas within use classes B1, B2 and B8 for protection from redevelopment or change of use if local evidence supports it.

New Employment Development

4.16 Across the District a number of established Employment Areas provide land and buildings for a variety of economic opportunities as detailed in Policy SCLP4.1.

4.17 Through the allocation of new land for employment development, the Local Plan can provide opportunities for new local and inward investment to come forward over the plan period which will improve economic vibrancy and enterprise across the District. The creation of well situated sites for new employment development will broaden the range of sites available and offer flexibility to potential occupiers and users which is welcomed by the Council. In appropriate locations opportunities to utilise the main road frontage of sites ensures that a high quality design is brought forward which is in keeping with the surrounding area and raises the economic potential across the area.

4.18 Ensuring a range of appropriate sites to facilitate business start ups and incubator units as well as sites for established businesses to grow into, enables commercial activity across the District to be free from barriers to business and supports productivity and prosperity across the District. Making provision for new employment development can encourage new technologies to be introduced and for industries to cluster by sectors which emerge over the plan period.

4.19 New employment development will also provide opportunities to be realised for all sectors as and when the economic conditions are right. Another key benefit to the provision of new employment areas is that it will provide opportunities to renew the existing stock of business premises which in some parts of the District are not fit for purpose or are coming to the end of their useable life. Without the allocation of new land, there is very limited flexibility to renew and regenerate the existing sites.

4.20 Where businesses within existing Employment Areas wish to expand onto adjacent land outside of the existing Employment Area, Policy SCLP4.3 allows for this. For new employment development Policy SCLP4.2 requires it to be demonstrated that there is an additional need for the employment development over and above the needs identified in the Local Plan, or alternatively there is no suitable land within existing Employment Areas, existing employment allocations or within Settlement Boundaries.

4.21 In demonstrating an additional need, evidence submitted with the planning application should provide information on latest economic forecasts or bespoke forecasts for the relevant sector. The evidence of need should also justify the locational requirements for the development and also review the land and premises available together with the specific locational requirements of the proposed development. The review of land and premises availability should assess whether the alternative land or premises are suitable (with regard to specific locational requirements), available (the landowner is willing to sell at market value) and achievable (whether the alternative land is viable to develop).

4.22 Section 12 of the Local Plan identifies a number of sites for new employment development. Each of these have site specific policies and are outlined in:

  • Policy SCLP12.3 North Felixstowe Garden Neighbourhood (as part of the masterplanned approach),
  • SCLP12.20 Land at Felixstowe Road,
  • SCLP12.29 South Saxmundham Garden Neighbourhood (as part of the masterplanned approach),
  • SCLP12.35 Land at Innocence Farm. 

Policy SCLP4.2: New Employment Development

The Council will support the delivery of new employment development to provide greater choice and economic opportunities in suitably located areas across the District. Other uses which are functionally related to the economic activity on the site and the local area will also be supported.

Proposals for new employment development falling within use classes B1, B2 and B8 outside of existing Employment Areas but within Settlement Boundaries will be supported where these do not have an adverse impact on the surrounding land use and local highway network.

Proposals for new employment development falling within use classes B1, B2 and B8 on land outside of Settlement Boundaries will be permitted where a need for additional employment development has been demonstrated or it can be demonstrated that there is no sequentially preferable land available adjacent to existing Employment Areas, within existing Employment Areas or within Settlement Boundaries and:

a) It would not have an adverse impact on surrounding land use; and

b) It would not have an adverse impact on the character of the surrounding area and landscape, the AONB and its setting or harm the natural or historic environment.

Expansion and Intensification of Employment Sites

4.23 The Council acknowledges that over the plan period, it may be necessary for some existing employment premises to require expansion and or intensification of their operations. Across the District there may be circumstances where it is not be suitable and practical to support economic growth aspirations and this policy provides the criteria against which proposals to expand, alter or make productivity enhancements to existing employment premises will be supported.

4.24 The East Suffolk Economic Growth Strategy seeks to support all businesses across the District to ensure a successful and prosperous economy. The successful delivery of this strategy will be assisted by a positive policy which encourages sustainable economic growth and allows for the expansion, intensification or adaptation of existing premises. Opportunities for sustainable growth and productivity may also be realised by the co-location of business activities to realise synergies that may further boost local prosperity. In Suffolk Coastal this could include opportunities that may come forward in relation to high technology business and storage and distribution operations which operate at a variety of scales and in suitable accessible locations.

4.25 In some instances enterprises will have outgrown their established premises and future options may include expansion of the current site or relocation to another. These enterprises may be either on allocated Employment Areas or on individual sites within an existing and lawful employment use.

4.26 Some employment sites by their nature have a greater impact on their local environment and the economic operations anticipated to take place on a site is an important consideration in respect of expansion and intensification of premises. Applicants will be required to demonstrate that their proposals for expansion or intensification of employment premises do not have a material harm on the environment and that any adverse impacts can be successfully mitigated.

4.27 Where employment premises are located close to residential areas and proposals would have a detrimental impact on residential amenity by virtue of noise, odour or dust for example, the Council will seek to assist in identifying alternative suitable location(s) within Suffolk Coastal for continued economic activity.

 

Policy SCLP4.3: Expansion and Intensification of Employment Sites

Proposals to expand, alter or make productivity enhancements to existing employment premises will be permitted unless:

a) The scale of development would cause a severe impact on the highway network; or

b) There will be a material harm to the environmental sustainability in the area; or

c) The proposed use is not compatible with the surrounding employment uses in terms of car parking, access, noise, odour and other amenity concerns; or

d) There is harm to the amenity and living conditions of local residents and businesses relating to matters of noise, vibration, dust and light; and

e) Potential adverse impacts can not be successfully mitigated.

Where expansion or intensification of existing premises falling within use classes B1, B2 and B8 cannot reasonably take place within existing Employment Areas, development will be permitted on adjacent land outside of Settlement Boundaries providing it does not have an impact on surrounding land uses.

Protection of Employment Premises

4.28 Over the plan period, it is anticipated that in exceptional circumstances employment premises will be lost, despite the strong and prosperous local economy. However, it is important to retain these premises to support the economic prosperity of the District. Employment premises provide a contribution to the local economy and the majority of existing operations remain suitable and should be protected for economic development and regeneration.

4.29 When employment uses cease to operate from a site, the land and buildings often come under pressure for redevelopment. The Local Plan acknowledges the importance of a vibrant and successful local economy and therefore takes a positive approach to the protection of employment premises.

4.30 In April 2016 the Council published the Commercial Property Marketing Best Practice Guide. The document focuses on the information that the Council would expect in support of planning applications for the change of use of commercial premises and sites. The principles of this guide have been included within Appendix E.

 

Policy SCLP4.4: Protection of Employment Premises

Employment premises across the District will be protected for their established B class uses unless:

a) Marketing evidence is provided which demonstrates that the premises have been marketed for a sustained period of 12 months in accordance with the requirements set out in Appendix E;

b) There would be substantial planning benefit in permitting alternative uses; and

c) The proposed use is compatible with the surrounding uses in terms of car parking, access, noise, odour and other amenity concerns.

Proposals for loss of employment premises to be used for residential use will only be permitted in exceptional circumstances where there is no current or long term need for the premises and the site is within the defined Settlement Boundary.

Economic Development in Rural Areas

4.31 Economic activity also takes place outside of the towns and the identified Employment Areas in rural locations. It is important that the Local Plan continues to maximise the potential of these activities to support the rural economy and provide a valuable source of jobs locally.

4.32 National planning policy seeks to support a prosperous rural economy through the sustainable growth and expansion of businesses in the rural areas. Across the District there are a large number of farms and rural diversification schemes on isolated sites which provide employment opportunities or which through investment, could provide new economic opportunities in the form of traditional B class industries, cultural or tourism activities. Rural Estates in the District present particular opportunities related to their long term management and diverse economic functions.

4.33 Public consultation responses have highlighted the need to improve digital services such as mobile and broadband signal to support business activity in the rural areas. The Local Plan supports this need and encourages the increased provision of infrastructure to ensure greater coverage and reliability of this type of utility as outlined in Policy SCLP8.4.

4.34 It is acknowledged that employment opportunities in the rural areas are generally only accessible via motor vehicle and public transport opportunities are limited. In such locations any development needs to be sensitive to the surrounding landscape and not have an unacceptable impact (such as high volumes of HGV traffic) on the local road network including routes to the main road network. However the benefit of retaining these types of sites for economic activity and the local employment opportunities they provide in the majority of cases is considered to outweigh the negatives that arise from location and access arrangements.

4.35 Within the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB, the Council will still support economic development in rural areas, but will strive to ensure that higher levels of design and appropriate screening are delivered to reflect their location within the protected landscape.

 

Policy SCLP4.5: Economic Development in Rural Areas

Proposals that grow and diversify the rural economy, particularly where this will secure employment locally, enable agricultural diversification and other land based rural businesses, will be supported.

Proposals will be supported where:

a) They accord with the vision of any relevant Neighbourhood Plan in the area;

b) The scale of the enterprises accords with the Settlement Hierarchy;

c) The design and construction do not have an adverse impact on the character of the surrounding area and landscape, the AONB and its setting or harm the natural or historic environment;

d) Small scale agricultural diversification schemes make good use of previously developed land;

e) The proposed use is compatible with the surrounding employment uses in terms of car parking, access, noise, odour and other amenity concerns; and

f) The proposal delivers additional community, cultural or tourism benefits.

Conversion and Replacement of Rural Buildings for Employment Use

4.36 National planning policy supports a prosperous rural economy, sustainable rural tourism and retention and development of accessible local services. This includes the sustainable growth and expansion of all types of business through conversion of existing buildings and well-designed new buildings including for the development and diversification of agricultural and other land-based rural businesses. The Local Plan seeks to support and enhance the rural areas through enabling farm, forestry and other land-based businesses to build the new and replacement buildings and infrastructure they need to function efficiently. The identification of a variety of opportunities for employment development throughout the District ensures that the needs of local communities and their ability to realise economic potential comes forward over the plan period.

4.37 When buildings in the countryside are no longer required for their original purpose or become under-used, their re-use and conversion to appropriate uses for employment can represent a sustainable form of development. Buildings in the rural areas can provide opportunities to enhance local prosperity and support the move from lower paid to better paid employment.

4.38 Suffolk Coastal has a number of large traditional rural estates which, through co-ordinated land management, can have an impact on the landscape of the District. Over time, these estates have had a major impact on the variety of economic opportunities across the District and tend to have numerous rural buildings on their land. The management of these rural estates has an influence on the nature of the economic opportunities within the rural areas and, the conversion and replacement of the estate buildings needs to be carefully considered, to ensure appropriate uses are retained and facilitated over the plan period.

4.39 Rural buildings in the countryside are often also heritage assets which are important to retain and bring back into use. Relevant proposals will also need to be considered carefully against the historic environment policies of the Local Plan as well as national planning policy on the conservation of heritage assets.

 

Policy SCLP4.6: Conversion and Replacement of Rural Buildings for Employment Use

The conversion of rural buildings to employment use will be permitted where:

a) The business use is of a scale and character that is appropriate to its location in accordance with the Settlement Hierarchy;

b) The proposal does not have an unacceptable impact on local roads, exploits opportunities to make the location more sustainable by walking, cycling or public transport and would not have an adverse effect on highway safety and the amenity of local residents;

c) The proposal would not conflict with neighbouring uses;

d) The proposal is complementary to the setting of any historic or architecturally important buildings and reflects the form and character of the existing buildings; and

e) The design and construction do not have an adverse impact on the character of the surrounding landscape, the AONB and its setting, or harm the natural or historic environment.

The replacement of rural buildings with employment uses will be permitted where:

f) The proposal is of a similar size and scale to the building that is being replaced;

g) The proposal does not have an unacceptable impact on local roads and exploits opportunities to make the location more sustainable by walking, cycling or public transport and would not have an adverse effect on highway safety and the amenity of local residents;

h) The proposal would not conflict with neighbouring uses;

i) The proposal is complementary to the setting of any historic or architecturally important buildings and reflects the form and character of the existing buildings;

j) The proposal would not result in a significant adverse environmental impact; and

k) The proposal enables farm, forestry and other land-based businesses to build the buildings and infrastructure they need to function efficiently.

Farm Diversification

4.40 Agriculture and farming are an important part of the District's economy. Traditionally farming provided significant employment opportunities but over recent years the numbers employed has reduced due to increased costs and technological advances as well as the agglomeration of farmsteads. However, farming remains a key economic sector in the District and the Local Plan seeks to ensure that appropriate farm diversification schemes can help sustain agricultural operations for the wider benefit.

4.41 Examples of farm diversification across the District include the introduction of farm shops, post offices, tourism activities and education centres which all provide a valuable contribution to the original farm as well as the wider economy and community. In exceptional circumstances farm diversification can include conversion of buildings to permanent residential use. However the Local Plan has a role to ensure that farm diversification does not have an adverse impact on nearby villages or the local road network through traffic generation and parking arrangements in rural areas.

4.42 As a popular tourist area, many farms have converted buildings to provide tourist accommodation. This is an issue which the Local Plan needs to address to continue to ensure that only appropriate farm diversification schemes involve conversion to tourism accommodation.

4.43 It is anticipated that more diversification proposals will come forward over the plan period and it is essential that these are carefully considered to sustain the existing farm activities and do not have a detrimental impact on the wider community. Applicants will be expected to provide information to demonstrate how the diversification will support the vitality of the existing farm. Information required will need to clearly justify the additional benefits that will be brought about through the diversification proposals.

 

Policy SCLP4.7: Farm Diversification

Proposals for farm diversification schemes to support the continued viability of the farm will be supported where:

a) Farming activities remain the predominate use on the site;

b) The proposal is of a use and scale that relates well to the setting of the existing farm;

c) The proposal does not compromise highway safety to the local road network or free flow of traffic and there is adequate off road parking;

d) The proposals do not have an adverse impact on the character of the surrounding area and landscape, the AONB and its setting or harm the natural or historic environment;

e) The diversification is supported by detailed information and justification that demonstrates that the proposals will contribute to the viability of the farm as a whole and its continued operation;

f) The diversification retains or provides additional employment for the local community;

g) The proposal supports the retention or creation of jobs associated with the farm;

h) The conversion of existing farm buildings is undertaken sympathetically to the traditional character of the farm; and

i) The proposal does not involve permanent residential uses.

Support will be given to farm shops which provide continued employment opportunities and sell a range of produce associated with the farm and the local area. Proposals should be of a scale which is not detrimental to the existing shopping facilities provided in nearby towns and villages.

Town Centres and Retail

4.44 The distinctiveness, historic character and accessibility of resort and market towns in Suffolk Coastal presents an attractive setting for town centres as concentrations for shopping, leisure, employment, business, social and cultural activities. This also makes them popular with tourists and visitors from nearby areas within and beyond Suffolk Coastal. The towns have varying tourism functions that contribute to the scale of the retail offer and the presence of many specialist and artisan shops. The blend of different types of shops and leisure facilities in town centres is important to the experience of visitors and local quality of life.

4.45 Tourism and cultural aspects of town centres in Suffolk Coastal and growing leisure activities present opportunities for more inclusive day time and evening time economies, social interaction and the appeal of town centres as places to live. Town centres in the District provide residential development opportunities on appropriate sites that play an important role in ensuring their vitality. Opportunities to encourage residential developments targeted at the provision of smaller homes and specialist housing will be supported in appropriate locations (such as on upper floors) where they do not undermine the main town centre use.

4.46 Town centres are the most accessible places in Suffolk Coastal for shopping and commercial leisure. Commercial leisure is the business of entertainment facilities, the more intensive sport and recreation uses (including cinemas, restaurants, drive-through restaurants, bars and pubs, night-clubs, casinos, health and fitness centres, indoor bowling centres, and bingo halls); and arts, culture and tourism development (including theatres, museums, galleries and concert halls, hotels and conference facilities).

4.47 In common with national trends, food shopping growth has moved towards discounters and smaller store formats of large supermarket chains catering for more frequent, smaller shopping trips. High levels of car ownership and use in the District and consumer choice mean people are increasingly prepared to travel further, in order to access a greater choice of shops and leisure facilities available in larger centres.

4.48 Government policy and up-to-date evidence highlight that it is important that town centres offer a shopping and social experience that is different to out of town or online shopping. This reflects a broader change in the economy, population, e-commerce and how town centres are used and the way people spend their money and leisure time. More locally, this is in addition to the effects of a significant presence of out of town retail at Martlesham in the District and nearby Ipswich.

4.49 A balanced mix of town centre shops and services is important to ensure a strong offer to meet the needs of residents of the towns and their surrounding rural areas. This includes well situated units suitable for modern operator requirements on main routes around and through town centres.

4.50 Local and regional projects and strategies (e.g. East Suffolk Business Plan) are consistent in supporting local prosperity, community and cultural life and access to facilities and opportunities.

New Retail and Commercial Leisure Development

4.51 Opportunities for new retail development can enhance customer choice, convenience and shopping experience but can inevitably compete with existing shops and impact on town centres. Evidenced forecasts based on population change and household spending patterns (taking into account online shopping and new forms of retailing) show capacity to grow the amount of shopping floorspace in Suffolk Coastal to be very modest. In line with national trends, capacity for retail growth is concentrated on the large urban centres outside the District. Retail capacity for the towns in the District and for the area between Ipswich, Woodbridge and Felixstowe is identified in the Ipswich and Suffolk Coastal Retail and Commercial Leisure Town Centre Study (2017).

4.52 In the context of rapid change in the retail sector, the National Planning Policy Framework requires Local Plans to meet future shopping floorspace forecasts for 10 years rather than full plan period. Changing consumer demands related to new technologies are driving comprehensive change from traditional retail supply chain processes. In land use terms this is seen in storage and distribution development (planning use class B8) rather than significant retail floorspace growth. However, retail floorspace may incorporate changing showroom, customer experience, and collection and return facilities and functions. There may be further implications for retail floorspace and development through the integration of the storage and distribution and goods inventories with the visibility of goods for sale by the different methods of shopping available to consumers.

4.53 Estimated retail floorspace growth in Suffolk Coastal is mostly for goods which are purchased less often (comparison goods). The capacity for comparison goods retail growth for the plan period up to 2036 is assessed as up to 5,800m2 in Woodbridge, up to 3,400m2 in Felixstowe and up to 3,500m2 shared between Saxmundham, Aldeburgh, Framlingham and Leiston. In terms of retail capacity for groceries and other goods purchased regularly like toiletries (convenience goods) very modest estimates of floorspace growth for the District are identified. These are 400m2 in Woodbridge and up to 1,600m2 between Saxmundham, Aldeburgh, Framlingham and Leiston, with no forecast growth in capacity identified for Felixstowe. Garden neighbourhoods at Saxmundham and Felixstowe present opportunities for some new small scale convenience retail provision to meet needs arising from these developments.

4.54 Available evidence indicates that there are opportunities for growth of commercial leisure uses including eating and drinking venues. There are also commercial leisure growth opportunities in relation to hotel accommodation and health and fitness provision equivalent to 268 hotel rooms and between 5 and 7 additional gyms in the District over the plan period. Integrated use of premises may represent use of floorspace in multiple planning use classes, for example health and beauty facilities together with a hotel. Integrated use of town centre ground floor space may also combine some commercial leisure or community uses with retail to enhance the retail experience and help sustain the retail use. Suffolk Coastal's town centres function within a wider network of retail centres that includes the established retail destination of the retail park and superstore in Martlesham and the neighbouring county town of Ipswich as well as historic cities, towns and shopping centres outside the District.

4.55 The Council recognises that each of the town centres within the District is different, not least in terms of its particular shopping character, tourism offer and relationships with nearby places. This reflects links and relationships between shopping destinations offering choice and differentiation for shoppers' requirements, mobility and lifestyles. For example, Woodbridge is close to Ipswich and Martlesham and has a larger existing retail offer than the other market towns.

4.56 Evidence reveals significant shopping relationships between Woodbridge, Felixstowe, Martlesham and Ipswich. It is therefore important to consider provision for accessible retail and commercial leisure in the south of Suffolk Coastal in the context of the neighbouring county town of Ipswich.

4.57 National planning policy sets out the principles of the sequential test. Proposals for main town centre uses, which includes retail and commercial leisure uses, should be located in town centres. If no suitable sites are available then edge of centre locations should be considered, and if no suitable town centre or edge of centre locations are available then out of centre may be considered. A retail impact assessment will need to be submitted alongside any applications outside of town centres which exceed the thresholds set out in Policy SCLP4.8, in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework and the guidance set out in the Planning Practice Guidance.

4.58 A retail hierarchy for the District sets out the provision of facilities and scales of shopping development that can be expected of a centre. This recognises retail relationships between centres in the hierarchy, especially in the south of the District between Woodbridge, Felixstowe, the out-of-centre retail destination at Martlesham and the neighbouring county town of Ipswich.

4.59 An out of centre location is one that is neither in, nor on the edge of a centre. As an out-of-centre location, Martlesham Retail Park is not sequentially preferable for new retail and commercial leisure so it is therefore not included in the retail hierarchy.

4.60 Small parades of shops serving only the immediate neighbourhood are not classed as centres in national policy, and therefore are not designated. These include corner shops and other very small parades serving the immediate area.

 

Policy SCLP4.8: New Retail and Commercial Leisure Development

Priority will be given to concentrating retail and commercial leisure development within Town Centres in the Suffolk Coastal Retail Hierarchy and the neighbouring regional town centre of Ipswich. The retail hierarchy in Suffolk Coastal is:

  • Level 1 - Town Centre - Felixstowe (resort town),
  • Level 2 - Town Centres - Aldeburgh, Framlingham, Leiston, Saxmundham, Woodbridge (market towns),
  • Level 3 - District Centres,
  • Level 4 - Local Centres.

Retail and commercial leisure (falling within Use Classes A1, A2, A3, A4, A5, C1 and D2) will be permitted within Town Centre boundaries as defined on the Policies Maps. This will reinforce and reflect compact town centres in Suffolk Coastal.

Retail and commercial leisure development will be permitted on edge of centre sites, only where there are no suitable or available sites within a Town Centre. For retail developments, edge of centre is defined as within 300 metres of the Primary Shopping Area, as defined on the Policies Maps. For commercial leisure, edge of centre sites should be within 300 metres of the Town Centre.

Retail and commercial leisure development will only be permitted on out of centre sites where there are no suitable or available sites within a Town Centre or edge of centre location. Retail and commercial leisure development will only be permitted on out of centre sites where:

a) The location is accessible by public transport and is accessible to pedestrians and cyclists;

b) The site is well connected to a Town Centre, or links can be improved; and

c) The site will not impact upon other neighbouring uses, in terms of traffic, parking and amenity issues.

Proposals for retail or commercial leisure uses outside of Town Centres will only be permitted where it can be demonstrated that there will be no significant adverse impact on centres in the retail hierarchy and the neighbouring regional town centre of Ipswich. This will be determined through an impact assessment which will be required for proposals greater in size than the thresholds set out below:

Settlement Centre

Floor Space Impact Threshold (gross)

Level 1 (Felixstowe)

750sqm

Level 2 (Woodbridge)

750sqm

Level 2 (Aldeburgh, Framlingham, Leiston, Saxmundham)

350sqm


The impact assessment will need to consider potential impact on all relevant centres (including those outside of the District) depending on the location, scale and nature of the proposal. The minimum gross floor space impact threshold to demonstrate impact on Ipswich Town Centre is 750sqm. The scope and nature of an impact assessment will be determined at the time of a planning application. Proposals that would have a significant adverse impact on the vitality and viability of Town Centres will be refused.

Development in Town Centres

4.61 Development will improve and develop the Town Centres incrementally and organically to reflect their distinct historic character and functions having regard to their position in the retail hierarchy and relationships with other shopping and leisure destinations. The policy approach is to support centres in the hierarchy to consolidate and enhance their offer to local residents, surrounding rural areas and visitors.

4.62 The Local Plan designates Primary Shopping Areas, Primary Shopping Frontages, Secondary Shopping Frontages and Town Centre Boundaries. Primary frontages are where most shops are concentrated. Secondary frontages provide greater opportunities for a diversity of uses such as restaurants, professional services and businesses. The Council undertakes monitoring of Town Centres annually and the 2018 monitoring provides a baseline position for each Town Centre. Maintaining the high proportion of ground floor primary frontage units in retail use promotes customer choice and a healthy and appealing balance between retail and services in town centres across the District. Setting out this direct and comprehensible approach provides businesses and decision makers with clarity in the context of changing economic and social conditions faced by town centres.

Table 4.1: Retail and Vacant Units Primary Shopping Frontages

Town Centre

Total Ground Floor Units in Primary Frontage (excluding residential)

No. of units in retail (A1) use

Percentage of retail (A1) units

No. of vacant units

Felixstowe

123

82

67%

9

Aldeburgh

58

37

64%

1

Framlingham

31

20

65%

1

Leiston

49

30

61%

3

Saxmundham

48

29

60%

5

Woodbridge

75

60

80%

1

 

4.63 The District is fortunate to have many historic shopfronts in the Town Centres, which are often within designated Conservation Areas. The Local Plan will seek to ensure these are protected to maintain distinct and individual Town Centres. In partnership with Historic England the Council will encourage the retention and/or restoration of historic shop fronts through planning applications or specific interventions and projects in accordance with policies SCLP11.3, SCLP11.4 and SCLP11.5.

 

Policy SCLP4.9: Development in Town Centres

Town Centres will improve and develop incrementally and organically to reflect their distinct historic character and functions having regard to their position in the retail hierarchy and relationships with other shopping and leisure destinations.

Town Centres will develop in ways that support healthy lifestyles, social interaction, overnight stays, culture and the arts. Residential development targeted at the provision of smaller homes and specialist housing on appropriate sites within town centres will be supported where it does not undermine the main town centre use.

Within the Primary Shopping Areas as identified on the Policies Maps, the primarily retail function of these areas will be safeguarded. Non-A1 uses on the ground floor will be supported where they will help to sustain A1 uses and enhance the retail offer.

New retail uses (A1) will be directed to the Primary Shopping Frontage in the first instance. The majority of primary frontages will be in retail use at ground floor level. Proposals that reduce the high proportion of A1 uses and/or result in concentrations of non A1 use will be resisted.

The Secondary Shopping frontage, as defined on the Policies Map, will provide a mixture of town centre uses whilst retaining a proportion of A1 uses at ground floor level to ensure a balance and blend of shops and services is maintained.

Outside of the Primary and Secondary frontages the Council will take a flexible approach to future uses and redevelopment opportunities within the Town Centre which sustain and enhance the vitality and viability of the town.

Proposals for the redevelopment/change of use of existing units should give particular consideration to retaining and/or restoring historic shopfronts.

Town Centre Environments

4.64 All of the Town Centres are at least partly within designated Conservation Areas. Development should enhance and invest in historic environments and infrastructure including public seating, arts and cultural facilities. This will help promote community interaction and healthy lifestyles. Development in the Town Centre should also provide enhancements for urban biodiversity where possible. It is recognised that there may be opportunities or advantages for temporary use of historic buildings for buildings for a short and prescribed period of time especially whilst buildings are otherwise vacant.

4.65 There are particular opportunities to enhance pedestrian connectivity and legibility related to development and change within the town centres. This includes but is not limited to the following examples:

  • Felixstowe - between town centre and seafront;
  • Woodbridge - between town centre and riverside;
  • Aldeburgh - between car parks and town centre;
  • Framlingham - highways junctions (identified in the Neighbourhood Plan);
  • Leiston - mixed use town centre opportunity site (identified in the Neighbourhood Plan);
  • Saxmundham - between railway station and town centre;
  • Martlesham - between retail units and employment areas.

 

Policy SCLP4.10: Town Centre Environments

Development will encourage people to spend more time, enjoy and participate in town centres. It will do this by:

a) Supporting opportunities for social interaction;

b) Ensuring safe pedestrian access to link up with and enhancing existing pavements, pedestrian spaces, routes and focal points;

c) Improving access for cyclists, people with limited mobility and people with other disabilities;

d) Enabling physical linkages so that pedestrians can move easily and safely between parts of the town centre; and

e) Providing environmental improvements that make the most of historic environments and heritage features.

The expansion of Shared Space and Dementia Friendly areas will be supported where proposals maintain active town centre frontages without compromising highway access, vehicular and pedestrian movements.

Retail and Commercial Leisure in Martlesham

4.66 Martlesham is a popular place to live offering a high quality of life[2] including good employment prospects with a significant presence of diverse business areas. Connected by an extensive network of public open spaces and cycle routes the area is a convenient location from which to access other parts of the District and surrounding area through a variety of transport opportunities. Martlesham and surrounding parishes have experienced economic and housing growth which places particular pressures on highways and local infrastructure.

4.67 The retail park at Martlesham has evolved sporadically into a number of large modern premises comprising retail floorspace selling mostly non-bulky goods. This includes clothing and footwear as well as groceries and toiletries. The retail park is not characterised by the wider role or function of a town centre but does have issues associated with high volumes of traffic at peak periods. Capacity for its further expansion is dependent upon adjacent employment areas and impact on centres in the retail hierarchy and access and parking arrangements as well as the vision outlined in the Martlesham Neighbourhood Plan.

2. Royal Mail 2017 update of its 2015 study to find the most desirable places to live and work in England based on postcode. [back]

 

Policy SCLP4.11: Retail and Commercial Leisure in Martlesham

Retail and leisure development will enable Martlesham to thrive and support community interaction and inclusivity.

Out of centre retail and commercial leisure uses at Martlesham will only be permitted where:

a) There are no sites that are suitable or available to accommodate the nature and scale of the proposal in or on the edge of a centre in the Retail Hierarchy; and

b) The principal type of retail provision would not have a significant adverse impact on centres in the retail hierarchy including, but not limited to, the Square in Martlesham Heath, Woodbridge, Felixstowe and the regional town centre of Ipswich. Where development is considered acceptable in terms of the town centre sequential and impact tests proposals, it should make a positive contribution towards improving:

i. Safe non-car circulation and pedestrian / highway conflicts;

ii. The physical and visual integration of out of centre retail and commercial leisure;

iii. Green infrastructure supporting healthy lifestyles and social interaction;

iv. Accessibility for persons with physical or mental disabilities including dementia friendly environments; and

v. Accessible local services.

The change of use of existing office, industrial and storage floorspace (use classes B1, B2 and B8) to retail or commercial leisure uses will be resisted. Such changes of use will only be permitted if the site is surplus to requirements for B1, B2 and B8 uses, as satisfactorily demonstrated by marketing in accordance with Appendix E.

District and Local Centres

4.68 A District Centre is a large group of shops anchored by a small supermarket, together with facilities, which collectively form a coherent area. They provide opportunities for local people to meet everyday needs without having to travel. Garden neighbourhoods identified at Felixstowe and Saxmundham present opportunities for new District Centres. Existing District Centres are defined on the Policies Map at:

  • Cavendish Park, Felixstowe,
  • High Road East, Felixstowe,
  • Undercliff Road West, Felixstowe,
  • Walton High Street, Felixstowe,
  • Ropes Drive West, Kesgrave
  • The Square, Martlesham Heath,
  • Sycamore Drive, Rendlesham
  • The Hill, Wickham Market

4.69 A Local Centre is the next level down in the retail hierarchy, offering a smaller range of facilities than those present in a District Centre. Nonetheless, they play an equally important role in meeting the day-to-day shopping needs for a community, particularly the less mobile and elderly. Local Centres typically feature a newsagent and/or small convenience store, along with various other small shops serving a small catchment. Existing Local Centres are defined on the Policies Map at:

  • Bixley Farm, Rushmere St Andrew, and
  • Saxmundham Road, Aldeburgh

4.70 Outside of District and Local Centres, small shops within communities play a vital role in serving the day to day needs for convenience goods for residents, and often also provide a focal point for the community.

 

Policy SCLP4.12: District and Local Centres and Local Shops

District Centres are defined on the Local Plan Policies Map. District Centres provide shops and some other local services to meet the needs of residents in the local area.

Local shopping opportunities and facilities within District Centres will be supported and safeguarded where possible. Proposals which seek to increase the shopping opportunities and facilities within District Centres will be supported where they complement the existing role of these areas and do not have a detrimental impact on the town centres across the District or on neighbouring residential amenity. Proposals for the redevelopment/change of use of existing retail units should give particular consideration to retaining and/or restoring historic shopfronts in accordance with other policies in the Local Plan.

Local Centres will provide a small range of shops and other local services which help meet the needs of residents. Local shopping opportunities and facilities within Local Centres will be supported and safeguarded where possible. Where appropriate, proposals for the redevelopment/change of use of existing retail units should give particular consideration to retaining and/or restoring historic shopfronts in accordance with other policies in the Local Plan.

Individual and groups of local shops, services and community facilities located outside of the designated centres will be protected where they are important to meet day-to-day needs of local communities.