Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol City, North Somerset, and South Gloucestershire Councils
HJA was appointed, along with Lambert Smith Hampton, by the West of England Unitary Authority to refine the findings of their Economic Development Needs Assessment (EDNA), and provide expert witness support during examination in public sessions.
During the preparation of the West of England Joint Spatial Plan (JSP), the West of England Unitary Authority (UA) received a number of representations relating to the evidence underpinning the employment strategy of the JSP. The employment strategy was underpinned by findings from the updated Economic Development Needs Assessment (EDNA), which had built upon employment forecasts prepared by Oxford Economics. The representations raised a number of technical queries around methodology which led to concerns relating to the quantum of employment provision required to support the future success of the West of England economy, particularly in Bristol City Centre.
The UA therefore needed consultants to assess the latest consultation responses, refine the work and curate the full range of existing evidence. The work required an identification of whether any of the points raised were valid and require amendment either within the JSP or the underpinning evidence base. The UA also required consultants to represent the JSP authorities as an expert witness during the examination in public sessions.
Our work began with commentary on analysis of historic time series data across the four Unitary Authority areas of the West of England. This provided helpful insights into the workings of the commercial market. The analysis highlighted that data on net changes in floorspace can mask significantly larger levels of development activity and as a result making sufficient provision for only net changes in the economy has a high risk of under provision to meet the full needs of the economy. A key finding of this section of the study is that there is a need to ensure provision to enable replacement activity.
The work then considered the implications of including an allowance for replacement activity and forecast net additional employment growth on the future B Use Class employment sites and premises requirements. HJA found that the EDNA provided a robust quantitative analysis of the net changes required as a result of forecast economic and employment change, but that it did not consider the need for replacement demand. After including a replacement analysis, the total requirements for office and industrial premises increases.
Following the addition of replacement demand, HJA updated the analysis of supply set out in the EDNA to provide an up-to date assessment of the aggregate supply of potential B Use Class sites and premises across the West of England within the JSP plan period. This process collated data supplied to HJA by the four UAs. The result of this analysis found that total supply is greater than that found in the EDNA and the area in which the EDNA under estimated the capacity for office supply is in Bristol City Centre.
The report was finalised with a consideration of whether the identified B Use Class sites and premises supply was sufficient to meet the identified requirements across the JSP plan period. This was carried out by testing supply against the lower and upper ends of the requirements range and a preferred scenario taking account of historic levels of development activity. The analysis found that the preferred scenario is deemed an appropriate bases on which to plan.