In 2015, HJA undertook a Functional Economic Market Area (FEMA) Assessment on behalf of Swindon Borough Council and Wiltshire Council. Key objectives of the FEMA were to assess and define local functional economic market areas relating to Wiltshire and Swindon and provide an objective assessment of employment need for Wiltshire and Swindon per FEMA, in terms of number of jobs by sector and in terms of land by employment use. This involved providing an assessment of employment needs of the area, economic linkages between areas and identifying local constraints to economic growth and the risks to delivering sustainable economic growth. The FEMA was developed alongside the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) to ensure consistency between the two evidence bases.
Following the FEMA assessment, HJA carried out an Employment Land Review on behalf of Wiltshire Council in 2017. This was requested to develop an evidence base to support the emerging Local Plan. We conducted a critical review of the demand and supply of employment land as well as considering the opportunities for future growth, barriers, and any risks facing the supply of employment land.
To prepare this report we first looked at the baseline economy of Wiltshire, this allowed us to conclude there had been no material change to the economy or, economic growth prospects in Wiltshire since we developed employment growth forecasts for the area the previous year. We therefore used these growth forecasts to estimate demand for employment land over the planning period before adding allowances for churn, replacement and choice. We worked with the Council and our sub consultants to examine the supply of employment land across Wiltshire and assess the likelihood of these sites coming forward. This allowed us to examine the fit between forecast demand and supply across the three FEMAs in Wiltshire both overall and, when unallocated and those with a high risk of non-delivery were removed from the supply figures.
Based on our analysis we were able to make a number of policy recommendations to Wilshire County Council. This included recommendations to overcome barriers affecting the deliverability of sites and, the reframing of some of their available sites in the context of the larger regional and national strategic needs.
HJA are currently undertaking an updated Employment Land Review to support the emerging Local Plan for Wiltshire. Like the 2017 study, we are analysing the demand and supply for employment land, focussing on recent economic performance and opportunities and barriers to growth across Wiltshire as a whole as well as examining growth at the FEMA and main settlement level. An important reason for updating the evidence base is to account for any factors that may have impacted the demand for and supply of employment land in Wiltshire since the last study and identify areas where change has been concentrated. In particular, we are investigating potential impacts of Covid-19 lockdowns, homeworking trends, the rise of e-commerce and its subsequent impact on the distribution and logistics sector, net zero policy and consumer trends and implications of the UK’s exit from the EU.
Following this analysis, we will set out recommendations to Wiltshire County Council on the requirement for and availability of employment land across Wiltshire, and provide an updated evidence base to inform the development of the Local Plan.