This local plan aims to deliver inclusive economic growth. It supports and delivers the ambitions of the New Anglia LEP’s Norfolk and Suffolk Economic Strategy and Local Industrial Strategy, the Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor initiative, and the enhanced growth outlined in the Greater Norwich City Deal. In a time of significant economic uncertainty and change, the policies aim to provide an appropriate balance between certainty and flexibility to inform investment decisions and encourage economic development.
The Norfolk and Suffolk Economic Strategy (NSES) recognise Norwich and Greater Norwich as one of six “priority places”. Greater Norwich is also a key location within two other priority places; the A47 corridor and the Cambridge-Norwich corridor. The NSES identifies nine key economic sectors of:
- life sciences and biotech;
- ICT, tech and digital creative;
- advanced agriculture, food and drink;
- visitor economy, tourism and culture;
- financial services and insurance;
- transport, freight and logistics;
- construction and development;
- advanced manufacturing and engineering;
The promotion of Norfolk and Suffolk as the “UK’s clean growth region” sits at the heart of New Anglia’s Local Industrial Strategy (LIS). It focusses on three high growth sectors: clean energy, agri-food and ICT/digital. All the NSES and LIS sectors are represented in Greater Norwich and relevant businesses are found throughout the area. In addition, there are important concentrations of the LIS priority sectors in strategic employment locations: Norwich Airport plays a key role in servicing the off-shore energy industry; Norwich Research Park and the Food Enterprise Park are crucial to the success of the agri-food sector; and, the city centre is home to a growing ICT/digital cluster. The high environmental standards promoted through this local plan will support the recognition of the area as the UK’s Clean Growth region.
The Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor is an extension of both the Oxford Cambridge Arc and the London Stansted Cambridge corridor. The A11 coupled with Cambridge to Norwich train services provide the linking transport infrastructure. Greater Norwich includes key economic assets supporting the CNTC – notably Norwich and its city centre, the Norwich Research Park (including UEA and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH)), the Food Enterprise Park, Norwich Airport and Hethel Engineering Centre.
Evidence in the Employment, Town Centre and Retail study (GVA 2017)99 , updated in the Greater Norwich Employment Land addendum: Avison Young : 2020, investigated both “business as usual” and the potential for enhanced economic growth. It demonstrates that committed employment land is more than sufficient in quantity and quality to meet the potential for enhanced growth. The Avison Young addendum forecasts growth of around 33,000 jobs in the period 2020 to 2038. While the plan provides for significantly more employment land than is required for this scale of jobs growth, there are a range of justifying factors:
- Over 280 hectares of our supply is on key strategic sites, with several targeted at particular sectors such as NRP, Hethel and the airport area. These sites are not suitable for reallocation to other uses.
- The remainder is dispersed across the area providing important local opportunities. The evidence focusses on B-class uses (as defined pre-2020) and employment land will also be used for non-B-class employment such as gyms, waste recycling centres, vehicle sales and fuel forecourts; or supporting uses such as cafés and restaurants.
- The scale and range of our employment allocations facilitates choice and flexibility, provides for growth in the longer term and supports more ambitious levels of jobs growth if demand can be stimulated.
The enhanced growth scenario forecasts around 45,000 jobs in the period 2015 to 2036. In the period 2015 to 2018 the East of England Forecasting Model (EEFM) suggests that around 15,000 jobs were delivered. This leaves the enhanced growth potential for around 30,000 jobs in the period 2018 to 2036. This is an uplift of around 8,000 on the EEFM business as usual forecast and is consistent with City Deal ambitions. Since the evidence was produced the Local Plan period has been extended to 2038 and, based on the EEFM, the target is extended to 33,000 jobs 2018 to 2038.
The policies of this plan seek to grow the local economy in a sustainable way to support jobs and inclusive economic growth in both urban and rural locations. This will:
- provide jobs and services for a rising population and develop Greater Norwich’s role as an engine of the regional economy;
- facilitate enhanced growth potential with a target of at least 33,000 additional jobs in the period 2020-2038;
- support the key sectors identified in the NSES and LIS and help increase the proportion of higher value, knowledge economy jobs; while ensuring that opportunities are available for development that can support all types and levels of jobs in all sectors of the economy and for all the workforce
- be supported by investment strategies that focus on overcoming constraints to the release and development of key employment sites
Policy 2 promotes the provision of enhanced broadband throughout the area and this will support businesses directly and support home working. Implementation of the policy will also see employment development contribute to the green infrastructure network as appropriate
The Norwich urban area and in particular the city centre has a key role to play in providing the employment needed to support the housing growth proposed across the Greater Norwich area, through significant employment generation in the city centre. Evidence shows that Norwich’s economic dynamism underpins the regional economy; if Norwich’s economy flourishes, it will benefit the adjoining rural settlements in the county and beyond. A key part of retaining and growing employment in the city centre will be to reverse the loss of office accommodation in the city centre, as required by policy 1 of this plan, which has experienced a 29% reduction since the start of the Joint Core Strategy plan period in 2008100.
Although the Employment Town Centre and Retail study (GVA 2017) and the Avison Young 2020 addendum conclude that Greater Norwich has enough employment land overall, most of this is out-of-centre and is neither the preferred location for some growth sectors nor the most sustainable place for high intensity employment / office growth. The report highlights key trends in employment activity including a re-urbanisation of business activity back to locations that can offer a broader range of services to employees, and the rise in new start-ups in the creative and media sector which is fuelling demand for space in specific locations allowing for greater interactions, including Norwich city centre. Given that the report also identifies an underlying demand for good quality office and employment space there is a risk that this may lead to new such development going to less sustainable locations with serious impacts on the vitality of the city centre and undermining policies to encourage modal shift. Therefore, it is essential that this plan ensures that high density employment uses are concentrated in highly accessible locations in particular the city centre, and that loss of existing floorspace in the city centre is resisted (see policy 7.1).
The Employment Town Centre and Retail study reviewed existing employment sites and allocations and did not conclude that any should be reallocated for other uses. While the study also concluded that there is no overall quantitative need for additional employment sites, 46.5ha of land at Norwich Airport is newly allocated for aviation related uses. The site has the benefit of planning permission and was included as a commitment in the study. Two small sites are also allocated as they are logical extensions to existing strategic sites and provide additional flexibility. Extensions to other small sites will also be considered where this can be justified, for example where the site is well located to serve local needs and has insufficient capacity to serve ongoing demand.
Retailing and town centres are currently in a state of flux. Covid-19 has strengthened the growth of internet shopping. This uncertainty reinforces the need to protect and promote town centres to allow them to recover and evolve. There is some evidence that the Covid-19 epidemic has encouraged people to shop locally and boosted the opportunities for smaller businesses and in market towns, and smaller centres.
The policy identifies the hierarchy of centres across the area to guide the operation of the “sequential approach”. It encourages development in all centres and, outside defined centres, small scale businesses to serve local areas. New local centres are promoted in the site-specific policies for all strategic housing developments. Within town centres a flexible approach will be required to allow centres to diversify while retaining their ongoing role as economic and community hubs. Owing to the need to update policy for Norwich city centre, further detail is set out in Policy 7.1.
Retail, offices and some leisure uses are currently the same use-class and this helps provide flexibility within town centres. The policy’s definition of the local retail hierarchy enables the individual councils to consider whether, dependent on national permitted development rights, Article 4 Directions may be appropriate locally. This approach would allow protection of all or parts of retail centres, potentially ranging from local to town centres and the city centre as defined in Development Management policies, from conversion to residential uses. In addition, large scale out of centre office, retail or leisure development will have significant implications, for example for traffic generation, and it will be important to ensure through conditions that the development that takes place is consistent with the evidence provided with the planning application.
Tourism, and related developments, are an important part of the local economy and reflect the attractiveness of the environmental and cultural offer in the area. However, it is important that this attraction does not itself lead to damage of the very things that people come here for. In particular, consideration under the Habitat Regulations will be needed for such developments. The requirements set out under Policy 3 for new residential development will apply to tourist accommodation development; and a Habitat Regulations Assessment (HRA) will be required for significant tourism, leisure, cultural or environmental development which would impact on a Habitats Regulations protected site.