Swale to account for 40-65% of all new jobs in Kent

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30 Jan 2011
Ever since I first laid eyes on the options for the Core Strategy, I’ve been deeply suspicious about the headline figures for both housing and employment.

The justification for housing numbers certainly appears to have been simply worked backward from the South East Plan figures pro-rated to the end of the plan period. The South East Plan is no more and other development gateways such as Ashford have reduced their figures by a third, encouraged by Government to do so.

The supporting evidence which attempts to justify housing on both local need and migration into the Borough falls short on at least two counts. Migration has been based on a period which saw some of the highest levels of housing development in Swale’s recent history and to my mind migration is heavily dependent on the amount of housing development that occurs, rather than the borough’s attraction to the outside world.

Secondly growth assumptions have been based on the entire population and housing stock of the borough with no account taken of the significant implications of development being all but prohibited in an entire third of the borough.

However when we come to assess housing requirements in relation to employment it gets even more interesting. Much emphasis is placed on the amount of housing required to meet the economic aspirations of the Council, which illustrates that none of the housing options could supply the necessary labour to fulfil the jobs that might be created. Once again the Council has simply chosen to ignore some almost unbelievably significant facts.

Firstly no account what-so-ever is paid to the current disparity between the number of people of working age and the local jobs available, which means that even if every single job in Swale was taken by a local resident, we would still see 20% of the working age populating having to seek employment outside of Swale.

Secondly according to the consultation evidence we are told that Swale Council seriously believes that Swale will account for between 40% and 65% of all new jobs created in Kent.

At this point you may be finding it hard to attribute any credibility to the forecasted growth aspirations of our Borough Council. However to make matters even worse the same consultation documents tell us that job growth in Kent as a whole is slowing down compared to UK’s long term trend.

Further to this the evidence itself states that it is unlikely that this level of growth could be achieved in the short term, regardless of the amount of employment land available.

The Council would appear to have adopted a policy of job creation on the basis of making as much land available for development as possible, thus theoretically creating more jobs. This would not be dissimilar to the current Local Plan which made significant provision of employment land compared to other boroughs in Kent, but which did not result in large scale job creation.

The evidence is critical of this approach and suggests that more realistic consideration of the ability of these sites to deliver jobs is justified.

Whilst we have seen increased densities on housing developments in recent years, employment provision has generally been of a very low density and it is time for us to re-evaluate employment land provision with the same regard to protecting our countryside that we afford to housing development. It is simply no longer sufficient to continue to justify employment land provision on the basis that it will create jobs and therefore all other considerations are immaterial. We should demand actual evidence of the number of jobs that are likely to be created on a site by site basis, and stop the reliance of building vast industrial sheds that yield very small numbers of jobs in relation to the land required.

Andy Hudson