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10. BUSINESS AND REGENERATION

 

OBJECTIVES:

  1. To consolidate and improve employment opportunities for the benefit of the Borough and London as a whole and to maximise the opportunities for new small business development, particularly in areas well served by public transport
  2. To provide the right climate for investment in designated Business Areas by:
    (i) preventing the loss of land in these areas to non-business uses;
    (ii) encouraging higher quality business environments through the replacement and modernisation of existing buildings; and
    (iii) encouraging the clustering of similar and complementary businesses where appropriate

STRATEGIC CONSIDERATIONS

10.1 The London Plan and the Mayor of London’s Economic Development Strategy “Sustaining Success” aim to create a sustainable world city with strong long-term economic growth, social inclusion and environmental improvement. The role of the Plan is to adopt a positive, flexible and realistic approach to business development, with a view to providing a range of premises to meet the varied needs of businesses. This means retaining sites for employment generating uses, identifying opportunities for attracting new wealth-generating uses to the area, encouraging strong business clusters, and maximising social and economic benefit through mixed use development. PPG4 reinforces this idea and seeks ways of assisting businesses through the planning system.

10.2 A strong local economy also supports sustainable development objectives. The more local people that are employed locally and the more people shop and do “business” locally, the less the impact on the environment from commuting, shopping trips and goods transport. While the Borough’s economy could never be self-sufficient, the more it moves towards this scenario, the greater the benefit for local people and local business.

LOCAL CONSIDERATIONS

10.3 A number of factors combine to make the Borough an attractive location for business. Access to the M25 and to Central London, a pleasant environment and a well-qualified local labour force result in a high demand for modern industrial and commercial premises. Recent trends, including pressure for out-of-town retailing, call centres, a range of non-conforming uses and internet-related business growth, all place demands on the limited development opportunities available locally. The challenge for the UDP is to strike a successful balance between these competing uses in both the shorter and the longer term.

EMPLOYMENT TRENDS

10.4 Approximately 98,000 people are employed locally (ABI 2000) and 17,000 self employed (LLFS 2001). The retail sector employs the largest number of people in the Borough with 22% of total employment, while property related employment (20%) is also a significant contributor to the local economy. The manufacturing sector declined sharply in the 1990s, but now seems to have stabilised. The largest rise in employment levels recently has been within the construction sector.

BUSINESS LOCATION

10.5 The Borough's main employment centres are: Bromley Town Centre; the Major Town Centre of Orpington; the District Centres of Beckenham, Penge, Petts Wood and West Wickham; and the Business Areas in St. Mary Cray, Lower Sydenham, Elmers End and at Biggin Hill Airport.

10.6 Bromley Town Centre is the main location for the Borough's office-based businesses, with approximately 200,000 sqm of floorspace, over one third of the total office floorspace in the Borough. Orpington, which benefits from close links with the M25, has the next largest concentration with approximately 50,000 sqm. The remainder is mainly distributed amongst the Borough's other District Centres.

10.7 Despite some decline of manufacturing employment in the Borough, industry and warehousing remain important elements of the local economy. There are approximately 100 hectares of land in industrial or warehousing use, the majority being concentrated within the Business Areas in the Cray Valley, Lower Sydenham (Kangley Bridge Road), Elmers End and Biggin Hill Airport.

10.8 St Mary Cray is the largest of the areas with 40 hectares used for light industry or warehousing. It is the area with the best connections to the M25 and is the Borough's prime location for such businesses. Both Lower Sydenham and Elmers End have relatively good connections to Central London. The Business Area at Biggin Hill Airport provides modern business premises that benefit from close connections with the aviation industry and with air transport facilities.

See also: Chapter 12 Biggin Hill Airport

 

POLICY AIMS

10.9 The Council’s economic strategy is outlined under the Local Economy section of ‘Building a Better Bromley’, the Council’s Performance Plan (2005-2008). The UDP sets out the land use implications of this strategy. The Council is committed to reducing unemployment, promoting the development of e-commerce, improving skills and creating competitive town centres. The UDP can play a significant role in supporting these objectives through its business policies.

10.10 It is generally recognised that enabling the growth of new business start-ups and small firms from within the Borough creates as many, if not more, new employment opportunities as inward investment. To this end, policies encourage the development of accommodation for small firms, as well as allowing for controlled growth in established commercial areas. Maintaining a diversity of accommodation for all business types is important, as is promoting the clustering of similar business types, in appropriate locations.

10.11 Business uses which are travel intensive will be directed to appropriate town centre locations. The six larger town centres in the Borough (see paragraph 10.5) are expected to accommodate the majority of new office development, including a number of identified proposal sites. These centres also have the majority of re-usable office floorspace. Policies encourage the productive re-use of this floorspace to include, where appropriate, mixed-use development.

10.12 Within the Business Areas, the process of redevelopment of older obsolete factory premises is expected to continue. The Council aims to ensure that new developments are well provided with circulation space, car parking in accordance with parking standards and are developed with high standards of landscaping. The Council will encourage and promote a "business park" environment in the Borough's Business Areas in order to provide the right climate for private investment. Outside Business Areas, policies seek to protect independent commercial sites from alternative development unless significant advantages can be proven.

Under the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended) the B1 Business Use Class incorporates all office (B1(a)), research and development (B1(b)) and light industrial (B1(c)) uses. B1 uses are those which can be carried out in a residential area without detriment to the amenity of that area. This chapter contains policies for all B1 uses as well as for general industry (B2) and warehousing (B8).

OFFICE DEVELOPMENT

POLICY EMP1

Proposals for large new office development (more than 2,000 sqm) are to be located on defined proposals sites or within Bromley, Orpington, Penge and Beckenham town centres. Outside these locations, large new office development will be permitted only on sites that are highly accessible by public transport and by other modes of transport.

10.13 These four town centres have, to a varying extent, become established as centres for office employment. The aim is that they be allowed to continue as the principal employment locations in the Borough, particularly because they are highly accessible by public transport. As such, they can offer the most sustainable development opportunities.

10.14 Orpington, Penge and Beckenham are included as important alternatives to Bromley Town Centre, particularly for activities that provide a local service. As complementary employment centres to Bromley Town Centre, these three provide important employment opportunities for local residents, but their capacity for further expansion is limited.

10.15 The extent of each centre is shown on the Proposals Map. Individual proposals need to ensure that any adverse effects on the character and scale of existing buildings and areas are avoided.

POLICY EMP2

Proposals for office development will be expected to ensure that:

(i) the shopping functions of the town centres are not impaired;
(ii) access to the development by means other than the private car can be achieved, if necessary through the use of planning obligations; and
(iii) on small office schemes mixed use or flexible space for small businesses and start-ups can be achieved.

Schemes that provide facilities for small businesses will be permitted in local centres, provided that the vitality and viability of that centre is not impaired.

10.16 All proposals for new office development (including those covered by Policy EMP1) will need to address the criteria set out in this policy. All town centres have an important function in serving local employment needs. In the smaller centres and local parades there is scope for small office uses, either by way of new development or changes of use. A range of facilities in these locations will help to maintain the centres’ vitality. The Council wishes to retain the scale and character of these centres and this can best be achieved through small-scale office development, and small business units.

See also: Policy EMP5

 

POLICY EMP3

The conversion or redevelopment of offices for other uses will be permitted only where:

(i) it can be demonstrated that there is no local shortage of office floorspace and there is evidence of long term vacancy despite marketing of the premises; and
(ii) there is no likely loss of employment resulting from the proposal.

10.17 The age and configuration of some older office buildings in the Borough may be a barrier to their successful re-occupation. Many modern companies now seek flexible space that can accommodate the needs of various new technologies within the shell of the building. Rather than see these buildings stand empty for extended periods, proposals that advocate a mix of uses will be considered favourably. Appropriate mixed-use proposals will contribute to the vitality and employment opportunities within the Borough’s larger town centres, while also contributing to local housing requirements.

See also: Policies H1, H12 and EMP5

 

BUSINESS AREAS

POLICY EMP4

Except where sites allocated for other uses are identified in the Schedule of Proposal Sites, in the Business Areas identified on the Proposals Map only the follow uses will be permitted:

(i) Class B1, provided that the use does not impede effective operation of neighbouring businesses and large new offices meet provisions of Policy EMP1;
(ii) Class B2; or
(iii) Class B8; large scale warehousing development over 1000 sqm will be permitted only in the St Mary Cray Business Area.

10.18 The Business Areas consist largely of land with established light industrial and warehousing uses. The Council wishes to safeguard a supply of such land in the Borough to provide for the growth and development of business and industry. Consequently, proposals in the Business Areas for uses not within Use Classes B1 to B8 will not normally be permitted.

10.19 The Business Areas provide appropriate locations for uses within the Business (B1) and General Industry (B2) Use Classes. The St Mary Cray Business Area in the London Plan as an Industrial Business Park. Proposals likely to be detrimental to the amenities of adjoining residential areas, however, by reason of noise, vibration, smell, fumes, smoke, soot, ash, dust or grit, will be resisted.

10.20 Analysis has shown that the supply of vacant industrial sites and premises in the Borough is diminishing and that most do not generally remain vacant or undeveloped for long. In these circumstances, the extent of the Business Areas shown on the Proposals Map represents a sufficient, though limited, supply of good quality sites for modern business development.

10.21 Although there are many cases of retail uses having become established in the Business Areas, the demand for new business premises is strong and the supply of suitable land for business development in the Borough limited. Proposals for retail uses in Business Areas will therefore not normally be permitted.

10.22 Proposals for new business developments will be expected to provide a high standard of landscaping which makes appropriate provision for biodiversity as well as space for vehicle circulation and parking.

See also: Policies S6, and Appendix II

 

10.23 Warehousing and distribution perform an important role in the local economy. The traffic generated by warehousing, however, can cause local environmental problems. Good connections to the strategic road network are needed to enable heavy goods vehicles to avoid passing through residential and shopping areas. The St Mary Cray Business Area, with its links to the M25 and its position on the edge of the urban area, is the only location in the Borough that meets these criteria.

10.24 The internet-based retail market will increase the areas of land required for such development reducing the ratio of jobs against floorspace. The Council views with concern the reduced potential employment that results when factory buildings are replaced with large warehouses, disproportionate to the area. The Council may seek to limit the size of any one unit where it is considered appropriate.

10.25 Links between small businesses, sources of supply and markets are often very important in maintaining the viability of small industrial firms. Existing firms located in the Business Areas may also need to develop ancillary warehouse and storage facilities to increase the efficiency of their operations. These smaller warehouse operations are an important source of additional employment and there are no significant differences between industrial uses and small to medium sized warehousing in terms of the number of people they employ. It is necessary, however, to control the growth of warehousing and storage uses in those Business Areas where access to the secondary road network is poor and local environmental problems on residential roads may occur.

10.26 Proposals which entail the construction of several warehouse units together in a single block will also be resisted (in Business Areas other than St Mary Cray) where there is a possibility that a large unit, greater than 1,000 sq m, could be created by amalgamation.

DEVELOPMENT OUTSIDE BUSINESS AREAS

POLICY EMP5

The redevelopment of business sites or premises outside of the Designated Business Areas will be permitted provided that:

(i) the size, configuration, access arrangements or other characteristics make it unsuitable for uses Classes B1, B2 or B8 use, and
(ii) full and proper marketing of the site confirms the unsuitability and financial non-viability of the site or premises for those uses.

10.27 The supply of independent business sites in the Borough is diminishing. Many of the established sites within, or neighbouring, residential areas are under threat from new residential development. These sites serve an important purpose in the Borough, accommodating small business uses that cannot be located satisfactorily in Business Areas or town centres. One of the key objectives of this chapter is to retain a range of accommodation for different business uses. It is important, therefore, to retain individual sites unless there are significant reasons as to why their continued business use is not feasible.

10.28 Retaining existing commercial sites around the Borough has significant sustainable development advantages in terms of providing both local employment opportunities and local services. Many of the small sites within the Borough are occupied by local independent traders, providing specialist services, who form an important part of the local economy.

See also: Policy EMP6 and Policy H1

 

POLICY EMP6

Outside designated Business Areas the Council will only permit non-conforming business uses where there would be no significant adverse impact on the amenity of the surrounding properties.

When considering proposals to refurbish or extend business activities, or those involving a change of use, on sites outside designated Business Areas, the Council will encourage the inclusion of environmental improvements such as:

(i) removal, replacement or refurbishment of dilapidated and unsightly buildings or plant;
(ii) improved landscaping which makes appropriate provision for biodiversity;
(iii) improved facilities for access on foot, cycle or public transport and/or improved facilities for off-street parking, deliveries and servicing; and
(iv) remedial measures to reduce levels of noise transmitted to adjoining residential buildings and the surrounding area.

10.29 Although the Council is keen to see the retention of business sites located outside designated Business Areas, it also wishes to protect local residential amenity. When considering proposals to refurbish or extend business activities, the Council will seek environmental improvements that enhance local residential amenity by improving the commercial site and its operation.

BUSINESS SUPPORT

POLICY EMP7

The Council will encourage proposals, which improve the supply of small business units, managed workspaces and live/work units. Small business and managed workspaces should be located in town centres, local parades, Business Areas or land and premises used for employment purposes. Live/work units should be located in town centres or local parades. When considering proposals it would be expected that sites would be well served by public transport.

10.30 Employment growth is likely to be led by small firms either starting up or expanding. This policy is intended to ensure that a sufficient supply of accommodation for various types of small business enterprise is provided. The Borough has a current deficit in the supply of small workshop or managed office units. Where appropriate, managed workspace units will be encouraged to ensure the long-term availability of units as established companies expand and move on to larger premises in the Borough.

10.31 ‘Live-work units’ are defined, for the purposes of this plan, as “self-contained small business units, with a proportion of the accommodation capable of being used for residential purposes on a permanent or semi-permanent basis”. They provide valuable accommodation for starter businesses, combining housing and business facilities in one unit, thereby representing a substantial cost saving. In particular, live-work units could provide a unique opportunity to small manufacturers and artisans to establish themselves in a market before moving to more traditional factory premises. It is expected that workspace will be at ground floor level, with off-street loading facilities. The workspace should also meet the design and layout standards felt necessary by the Council to provide flexibility in their use as B1 light industrial accommodation as described.

POLICY EMP8

In cases where planning permission is required, the Council will normally permit the use, by the householder, of part of a dwelling for business purposes only where:

(i) the business use is secondary to the primary residential use of the property;
(ii) the business use does not generate an unacceptable level of additional vehicular or pedestrian traffic so as to be detrimental to residential amenity; and
(iii) the residential character of the area is not unduly affected by noise or other inconvenience.

10.32 Changes in the structure of the economy, combined more recently with the employment opportunities offered by the internet, have changed the way we work and more people now work from home on a regular basis. Planning permission is only required where there is a material change in the character of the use of the dwelling.

10.33 Where permission is needed, the Council will, subject to the three criteria listed, allow householders to use part of a dwelling house for business purposes. Many new business start-ups begin at home; this policy will act in tandem with Policy EMP9 in encouraging the growth of small businesses.

10.34 Where permission is granted, planning conditions will normally be applied to ensure that the business activity is for a limited period of time, enabling the Council to require a cessation should nuisance be caused. Conditions will also require that the business part of the premises is used only for activities conducted by the resident, and that the nature of that business use does not change.

POLICY EMP9

The Council will endeavour to reduce commercial vacancy within the Borough through regeneration, town centre management, marketing activities and by working in partnership with appropriate external agencies. This will include the publication of information about vacant business sites and premises.

10.35 The Council's "Industrial and Commercial Property Register" contains up-to-date information on vacant sites and premises. It is produced with the co-operation of commercial estate agents in the area and is freely available and widely circulated. The property lists are also available on the London Borough of Bromley web site at www.bromley.gov.uk. The information helps to ensure that commercial vacancies in the borough are kept to a market-led minimum. It is important that firms seeking accommodation or considering leaving the area are made aware of the availability of premises elsewhere in the Borough.

10.36 The Council, through partnership initiatives such as Town Centre Management and regeneration schemes will actively seek out, or encourage, new tenants for vacant premises.

See also: Policy EMP10

 

POLICY EMP10

The Council will advise businesses to enable them to be better prepared when using the planning system.

Where appropriate, planning applications relating to grant schemes will be monitored to minimise any unnecessary delays.

10.37 PPG4 states that priority should be given to the handling of applications that contribute most to national and local economic activity. Such applications may or may not be for large developments, and it is recognised that, for small-scale enterprises which make a valuable contribution to the local economy, rapid decision making by the Council can be vital.

10.38 The Council will publish guidance for business on the planning system. Where planning applications are related to grant schemes, the Council will provide advice to the applicant prior to submission of an application, and during the process of its determination, in order to minimise unnecessary delays.

 

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