HJA was instructed by Wiltshire Council and Swindon Borough Council to deliver a Functional Economic Market Areas (FEMA) assessment to inform Local Plan reviews by providing robust evidence for the economic needs in the area. Key objectives of the FEMA Assessment were to produce:
- An assessment and definition of the local functional economic market areas relating to Wiltshire and Swindon using the most up to date and robust information available; and
- An objective assessment of employment need for Wiltshire and Swindon FEMA, in terms of number of jobs by sector and in terms of land by employment use.
The work began with a rigorous assessment of evidence, leading to the definition of three FEMAs in the study area, helping Wiltshire and Swindon Councils to understand the economic geography of their area.
We first considered previous FEMA research which had conflicting conclusions on the locations of FEMAs within the area. Our updated research and analysis involved consideration of travel to work areas, housing market areas, retail catchments, health service structures and media catchments. From this research, we summarised that three broad areas correlated well with the findings from a previous piece of work conducted on FEMAs in Wiltshire and Swindon. These findings were then thoroughly tested through documentary reviews and stakeholder consultations, with a wide range of public and private sector consultees contributing to the process.
We then carried out extensive research into the economies of Swindon and Wiltshire encompassing local economic output, employment, labour market characteristics, and sectoral analysis of employment by the FEMA defined previously.
Using economic forecasts from Oxford Economics and Cambridge Econometrics, we produced a baseline forecast for employment and GVA in Swindon and Wiltshire up to 2036. By working closely with stakeholders, we were then able to agree on a set of economic scenarios for the area, which considered varying factors such as local growth policies, labour supply and growth at a sector level for each FEMA. We developed a model to assess future demand, which enabled us to assess land and floorspace requirements in the study area over the period to 2037 and understand the implications of these needs on delivering growth. Following best practice guidance, the model incorporated all Use Classes in the forecast growth in site sand premises requirements. It also considered the level of replacement demand and land required for churn in the market.
Our final report was published in combination with a Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) produced by Opinion Research Services. This work informed planning policy and the continuation of planning strategy in Wiltshire and Swindon, and gave the Councils a better understanding of the housing requirements and employment needs in their area.