West Berkshire has long been a significant contributor to the Thames Valley economic ‘powerhouse’ with Newbury being the key economic hub within the district. Recent ‘Centres for Cities’ studies indicate that Newbury has a generally very insular economy, well contained and self-sustaining, with weak labour market links to nearby cities. This has resulted in sustained economic growth and generally very low unemployment. Nick Carter, Chief Executive at West Berkshire District Council, revealed an interesting statistic which illustrates this economic trend during a recent Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce Group business event; one third of the people employed in West Berkshire also live in the district, one third of people who live in West Berkshire work outside of West Berkshire and one third of people employed in West Berkshire live outside of the district.
Growth trends indicate that employment is expected to grow in West Berkshire over the next 20 years but at broadly half the rate seen in the past two decades. However, the rate of those leaving the employment sector is anticipated to exceed this growth. As of 2016, an average of 6 people per week left employment in West Berkshire which, based upon the number of jobs in the district, equated to broadly 1.2 jobs per person. By 2036, it is anticipated that an average of 8 people will leave employment each week. However, by that time economic growth would have resulted in 116,000 jobs. With an anticipated workforce population of 91,000 people, there will be an increase to 1.3 jobs per person which equates to 25,000 more jobs in West Berkshire than available workforce. Whilst this creates challenges, clearly, the outlook for the district is very positive, with the problem being how to accommodate this economic growth rather than fears of any economic decline.
The planning system will, therefore, be pivotal in supporting the anticipated growth and will need to provide new employment space, associated infrastructure and, perhaps most significantly, housing. The Government understandably continue to pursue a sustainable development agenda and central to this is the ability for people to live where they work, creating sustainable movement patterns, increasing reliance upon sustainable modes of transport and, moreover, ensuring West Berkshire can accommodate a population to serve its economic demands.
Bell Cornwell have been active in West Berkshire since our creation in 1986 and we are therefore very in tune with the district’s needs. We have a good deal of experience in West Berkshire; Matt Taylor, one of our Senior Principal Planners, started his planning career at West Berkshire Council as a planning officer within the Development Control team and maintains a good professional relationship with key contacts at the Local Authority. Liz Alexander, another of our Senior Principal Planners, previously managed the Planning Policy Team at the Council, successfully producing a sound Core Strategy and Housing Site Allocations DPD and a number of multi-disciplinary corporate projects including the Newbury Vision and the regeneration of the London Road Industrial Estate.
We are currently working on a number of projects in and around the district, from house extensions all the way through to strategic land promotions, and we are therefore very well placed to assist with any planning matters in this thriving region. From house owners and commercial owners through to residential developers, we are sure that we can help you to navigate the planning system and ensure best value for your site.