This weekend whilst ploughing through the proposed Local Plan, I read through the section on employment provision and unearthed some facts which I can only describe as a scandalously failure of Swale Borough Council to implement any degree of meaningful control over the development of future employment provision.
Let me take you back to the start of this consultation process in 2011 when the Council proposed four different options for growth. At this time the high end growth option which was apparently going to create some 30,500 new jobs by 2031 required 595,000 m2 of employment floor space. This was quickly dropped following the revelation from KCC that this would in effect be equal to a whopping 60% of all new jobs expected to be created in Kent.
Council Leader Andrew Bowles who championed this, along with those in the planning department did look very foolish indeed, but this was just an aspirational option so maybe we can overlook that.
However, then we get to the 2012 consultation when the Council were still floating the provision of 545,614 m2 of employment floor space to create 8,548 new jobs, excluding both the Port of Sheerness and the Kent Science Park. Had the Council listened or taken note of concerns, absolutely not, buy hey maybe, just maybe they will this time.
Well here we are in 2013 on round three of what is in most people’s minds a never ending consultation and the Council is now seeking to create a more realistic 7,053 jobs, yes quite a come down from the heady heights of 30,500 new jobs, and to do so they calculate that they would require 175,531 m2 of employment floor space.
So how much have they now put in the plan?
A massive 597,605 m2, confused?
Well what if I told you that 318,069 m2 already has planning permission and has not yet been built. Yes getting on for double the floor space provision required.
So why on earth would the Council then advocate more, well apparently the land is not of the right quality!
“there are strong reasons for having a land portfolio in excess of this numerical need so that we get the right quality of sites.”
This is truly unbelievable, the Council are suggesting that the sites they have already given planning permission to are not of the right quality. Well why on earth did they grant planning consent and having now done so, what exactly is it that they are proposing, to write off thousands of acres of land as unfit for purpose.
Without including one single further allocation of land for employment we already have right now sufficient land with planning permission to create around 12,779 jobs.
Do I really need to say any more..