Employment and the Local Economy

This new Local Plan has a crucial role to play in delivering high levels of economic growth for our District over the next 20 years. The strategic objective of growing and diversifying the Dover District economy lies, therefore, at the heart of this Plan. Policies are proposed to help make the District an attractive and competitive place to start, grow and invest in a broad range of businesses, attracting more and better jobs and attracting and retaining people of working age. As with housing growth, the new Plan will provide a firm foundation for meeting our future employment needs for the period up to 2040.

Draft Employment and the Local Economy Policies Map

What are the key issues to consider?

From initial consultation, and the evidence we have collected so far, we have identified the following key issues in respect to employment and the local economy:

The NPPF (2019) states that local authorities should set out a clear economic vision and strategy which positively and proactively encourages sustainable economic growth; help create the conditions in which businesses can invest, expand and adapt; support a prosperous rural economy; and be flexible enough to accommodate needs not anticipated in the plan.

Economic Context and Trends

Dover has faced a range of economic challenges over recent years which has resulted in a trend of gradual employment decline, particularly during the first ten years of the Core Strategy period (2006 - 2016). As a result the overall job growth target in the Core Strategy of 6,500 jobs by 2026 is yet to be reached. These changes are summarised in the Table below:

Use

2006

2016

Total Change

% Change

Total Workforce Jobs

45,700

41,000

-4,700

-10%

B Class Jobs

15,300

12,200

-3,100

-20%

Office Jobs (B1a/B1b)

5,800

4,700

-1,100

-19%

Industrial Jobs (B1C/B2/B8)

9,400

7,400

-2,000

-21%

The District has however performed better over recent periods in terms of a number of other key economic issues identified in the Core Strategy, mainly relating to increasing the overall scale of the local business base, rebalancing the previously polarised resident occupation profile, and improving resident skills. Despite this, Dover does still lag behind regional benchmarks across a number of these indicators, including qualification attainment levels and has the second smallest stock of workforce jobs in Kent.

In 2018 the District provided 42,000 jobs, which is an increase of 1,000 jobs from 2016. This equates to a job density of 0.64 (the ratio of jobs to the working population aged 16 – 64), which is well below that for the South East and Great Britain as a whole (Nomis), meaning that there are significantly less jobs than workers living in the District. This highlights the need to improve the attractiveness of the District as a place to locate business.

The District has a relatively self contained labour market with the latest Census data indicating a labour self-containment rate of 66.7%, but there continue to be strong commuting flows to and from the adjoining areas of Folkestone and Hythe, Canterbury and Thanet.

Dover's employment floorspace is dominated by industrial uses, which benefit from the presence of the A2 and links with the strategic road network. The largest clusters of employment floorspace can be found in and around Dover town and Sandwich. Elsewhere, smaller clusters of employment floorspace are located in and around the settlements of Deal, Aylesham and Eythorne, as well as within the more rural areas of the District. However many of the existing industrial estates do not provide high quality modern employment space.

Dover has a weak office market, and is constrained by the lack of availability of high quality office space. Dover town and Discovery Park in Sandwich represent the only recognised office centres or notable concentrations of office stock.

The viability of new employment development has been a particular challenge in the District over recent years and this remains the case today. This has impacted on the delivery of a number of existing allocated employment sites, and a significant amount of the employment land allocated in the Core Strategy remains undeveloped. Furthermore, some allocated employment sites have now been lost to other uses, or would appear to have very limited prospects of coming forward for employment development. Given this, there is a need to have an employment strategy for the District to prevent the further erosion of existing employment allocations to other non employment uses.

Since the contraction of Pfizer in 2011, Discovery Park has evolved into a successful and diversified business location with employment returning to levels similar to those when Pfizer occupied the site. Planning permission has been granted for the re-development of large parts of the site to deliver mixed use development including employment. This presents an opportunity to enhance the commercial offer in the District and provide new jobs and skills. The site provides particular opportunities in the life sciences sectors, with high quality laboratory, office and manufacturing facilities.

Dover also benefits from an international port which offers significant potential to deliver job growth and connections to Europe. The Port of Dover is a major infrastructure asset and potential catalyst for growth.

Tourism

The tourism industry is a major contributor to the local economy with 17% of all employment in Dover District either tourism or visitor based, supporting 6,701 jobs in 2019. The total value of income derived from tourism in the district is £302 million annually, with the average spend per visitor making an overnight trip worth seven times more to the local economy than that of a day tripper.

However, while both the strategic location of the District and its rich natural and historic environments attract many millions of people to Dover each year, only a very small proportion choose to stay in the District (In 2019 there were 4.7 million visitors, of which only 424,000 were staying visitors). This is a situation which the Council is working hard to improve through the new Visitor and Tourism Strategy 'Destination White Cliffs Country: growth strategy for tourism and the visitor economy 2020 to 2030'.

Future Economic Strategy

The Economic Development Needs Assessment (2017) identifies a limited need for employment land, in quantitative terms, to accommodate employment growth in Dover District. The Strategic Housing Market Assessment (2017) also concludes that the baseline economic scenario is not constrained by labour supply (i.e there is sufficient labour), so when the population increases, the increase in labour supply is much greater than the demand for jobs – causing increase in out-commuting, decrease in economic activity rates, increase in unemployment. Meaning a cautious approach is needed to the housing target unless significant economic interventions are secured (i.e. regeneration and other economic interventions).

Planning to purely meet the quantitative level of need identified would however not be a positive economic strategy, and would not deliver the Council’s aspirations to achieve a step change in economic growth within the District. Given this, a new approach is required.

Furthermore, opportunity exists to capitalise on the strengths of the Districts Town Centres in relation to their location, accessibility, heritage and tourism offer, to diversify uses within these areas and create vibrant hubs for retail, leisure, culture and employment.

The council's new economic growth strategy will also need to respond to the economic impacts associated with Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic, in relation to businesses, town centres and working practices in general, to ensure that the local economy can respond positively to challenges and harness any opportunities going forward. Here, it will be vital that the Plan takes a positive and flexible approach to future economic growth, as a lot is dependant upon market delivery and economic conditions, whilst also recognising there may also be the need for Council intervention in areas of market failure.

The governments recent changes to the use class order, whereby B1 has been combined into Class E (commercial, business and service) will also have implications for the Council's economic growth strategy and may have unintended consequences that will have to be addressed in the future.

View our Evidence Base

How could these be addressed through planning policy and what is our preferred approach?

The policy options for addressing the key issues identified are set out below:

Planning for Economic Growth

The Economic Development Needs Assessment 2017 identifies the potential level of economic growth that should be provided for in the District to 2037. Following the recommendations of the EDNA, a draft Economic Strategy has been developed which aims to promote a stronger economic narrative and plan, and make the case for further investment and funding to unlock key sites and guide future development in the District.

From the EDNA 2017 and the draft Dover Economic Strategy we have identified the following options for levels of economic growth to be planned for:

  • Baseline economic growth. This is based upon forecast job growth using Experian’s Regional Planning Service, which considers regional and national macro-economic trends to estimate future economic growth. This estimates a total job growth of 2,700 between 2017 and 2037. The job growth estimates are then translated into requirements for land for employment development. Over the 20 year period this shows a negative requirement in new floorspace for employment development of -1,680sqm, with a net increase in requirement of 620 sqm between 2016-2026, and a net reduction in floorspace of -2,300 between 2026 and 2027. If this option were to be chosen, this would likely result in the potential de-allocation of existing allocated employment sites, and no net increase in overall land would be required; or

  • Higher economic growth based upon specific planned projects. The EDNA (2017) considered a higher economic growth scenario, whereby the job potential of specific Dover development projects was estimated. These included the following sites, St James’s Development (complete), White Cliffs Business Park, Whitfield, Dover Waterfront, Discovery Park and Albert Road Business Park, Deal. The EDNA states that this a purely theoretical assessment that does not take account of potential market demand. It is presented as a yard stick to compare the other growth scenarios against. This would require continuation of the currently adopted policies on the above mentioned sites and result in an estimated job growth of 7,200 jobs to 2037.

  • Higher economic growth based upon the draft Economic Strategy. The draft economic strategy is based around five key themes: creating economic value; delivering critical infrastructure for business needs; revitalising our town centres; growing the visitor economy; and supporting the rural economy. An assessment of the likely job growth resulting from this strategy would need to be established through revised job forecasts in an update to the EDNA. This would be carried out following the regulation 18 consultation.

The option of planning to meet baseline economic growth would not deliver the level of economic growth in the District that is needed to provide a more prosperous economy, reduce inequality, levels of deprivation and provide the regeneration the District needs. A higher level of economic growth is required in order to achieve the strategic objectives of the Plan. The higher economic growth option based upon the delivery of specific projects set out in the EDNA, is not considered to be a deliverable option, as it was purely theoretical at the time and there have been changes in circumstances in relation to the specific projects.

The preferred option is to base a higher economic growth scenario upon the draft Economic Strategy. It is considered that this would provide an aspirational but realistic level of economic growth, based upon an analysis of the key strengths and opportunities in the District. This is considered to represent the most appropriate method for setting out a clear economic vision and strategy which positively and proactively encourages sustainable economic growth. The preferred approach aligns most appropriately with national legislation and most effectively addresses the issues outlined above.

Delivering the Levels of Economic Growth

The following policy options have been considered in supporting the economic growth of the District and delivering the higher levels of economic growth set out above.

New and Existing Employment Land and Premises

  • Identify strategic and non-strategic site allocations for employment growth to meet the needs identified.
  • Criteria based policy supporting new employment development that comes forward outside of allocated sites to identify locations where new employment development would be considered acceptable in principle, subject to detailed criteria. Options have been considered in relation to where appropriate locations would be, for example should this be within existing settlements or also allowed in principle on the edge of existing settlements.
  • Protection of existing employment sites. This could include a blanket protection of all existing employment premises, or alternatively protect only a list of identified sites which are considered to play a strategic role in the economy of the District, where their loss would be harmful.

In the context of the economic growth objectives for the council, the preferred policy approach is to allocate and protect employment sites which provide an important contribution to the overall employment floorspace provision within the district and to also allocate land at employment sites which are able to provide future additional employment growth. This will ensure that a supply of employment land for existing and future growth can be allowed for within the plan period.

Site specific options

The Economic Strategy of the Plan supports the delivery of a higher level of economic growth in the District. However until the Economic Development Needs Assessment has been updated, post Regulation 18, there is uncertainty around the level of jobs growth anticipated over the Plan period and the amount of new employment land that will be required to deliver this.

Furthermore, there is uncertainty around the future availability of White Cliffs Business Park for general employment purposes. It is unclear at this stage exactly what will remain available for employment purposes, but it is likely that at least in medium term and potentially long term, only a small part of the site will remain available for employment use.

The Council is also aware that growth of employment related to Discovery park may not be able to be accommodated within the existing site and further land may be required to support this growth.

Given this, whilst there is still some remaining development potential on existing allocations, which can be rolled forward into the new draft Local Plan, options for allocating further land for employment development are currently limited and further land is therefore likely to be required to deliver the Council's Economic Strategy. The Council is therefore carrying out a call for employment sites as part of the Regulation 18 consultation on the Local Plan.

Tourism and the Visitor Economy

  • Allocate specific sites or promote tourism uses and holiday accommodation in specific locations.

  • Criteria based policy supporting new tourism facilities and accommodation.

The preferred policy approach is to provide a more flexible criteria based policy which supports the provision of new tourism facilities in suitable locations in order to support the overarching Tourism Strategy for the council.

Homeworking

  • Requiring live/work units to be provided within allocated sites and/or new residential development ensuring a dedicated workspace is provided within new residential properties to enable home-working to be accommodated comfortably.

  • Reliance only on the national space standards.

  • Supporting opportunities for home working within existing residential properties, subject to criteria.

The increasing requirement for homeworking space and the need to incorporate this into new build development and existing dwellings is needed, rather than just a reliance on the national space standards. A policy to incorporate this into new build and for applying criteria for home working within existing residential properties will be able to tackle the issue.

Rural Economy

  • Supporting development of the rural economy, through policies which support the conversion of existing rural buildings, and support development within or adjoining the existing rural settlements.

  • Considering whether new employment development should be supported or restricted in countryside locations.

The preferred policy approach in order to support a rural economy and allow for rural economic development of an appropriate scale, is for the inclusion of specific policies for conversions of rural buildings and a criteria based policy for rural sites to allow for a more bespoke approach to rural development.

View the Draft Local Plan on our Consultation Portal