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EMP1  Provision Of Employment Land  Strategic Policy

A total of 185.0 hectares of land will be allocated for employment uses. This is made up of the following:

(i) two special development opportunity sites in the Birkenhead area totalling 63.8 hectares;

(ii) 99.0 hectares for general employment uses principally in the Birkenhead/ Wallasey/ Bromborough areas; and

(iii) 21.6 hectares for the expansion of existing firms.

Reasoned justification :

5.1 Revitalising the local economy is a fundamental part of the Urban Regeneration Strategy for Wirral and will continue to be one of the main aims of the Council. The UDP makes an important contribution to this by enabling and encouraging new investment. It is complemented by the Council’s Economic Development Strategy, a package of measures designed to secure and expand employment opportunities throughout the Borough and to reduce unemployment, both through the Council’s own initiatives, such as Wirral Direct, and also in partnership with local communities, private developers and other public agencies.

5.2 The UDP provides policies to control development in new and existing industrial and commercial areas, and identifies and safeguards a long-term supply of development land for employment uses. There have been two key influences on the location, quality and type of land allocated for employment uses in the UDP. First, the need to tackle the effects of structural change in the Wirral economy, and secondly, the provision of a range of sites which reflect the nature of demand for industrial land in the Borough.

5.3 In common with other parts of the Country, Wirral has experienced a decline in manufacturing and other traditional industries, with the total loss of some long established firms and reductions in the numbers employed in others. The impact of these structural changes is especially evident in the Borough’s inner urban areas. For example, in April 1995, the electoral Ward of Bidston had an unemployment rate of 30%, while the Wards of Birkenhead, Tranmere and Leasowe all had unemployment rates in excess of 20%. This compared with a Borough-wide rate of 13% and levels of unemployment in the Wards of Thurstaston, Royden, Clatterbridge and Heswall of between 5% and 8%.

5.4 Statistics indicate that unemployment is also heavily concentrated among males within the inner urban areas. In the electoral Ward of Bidston, for example, the overall unemployment rate of 30% breaks down to a male unemployment rate of 46% and a female unemployment rate of 11%. Electoral Wards in the inner urban areas also, generally, have the highest concentrations of long-term unemployment, defined as people who have been out of work for a period longer than one year.

5.5 Allied with high levels of unemployment in the inner urban areas are low levels of mobility, when measured in terms of access to a car. More than half the households in the electoral Wards of Bidston, Birkenhead, Tranmere and Leasowe do not have access to a car. Indeed, even in Wards with relatively low rates of unemployment, sizeable numbers of households do not have access to a car. For example, in nineteen out of the twenty-two Wards in the Borough more than 20% of households do not have access to a car.

5.6 In the ten years between 1983 and 1992, one hundred and eleven new industrial, storage and office development projects were commenced accounting for a total of 78.6 hectares of land. This equates to an average of 7.8 hectares each year, although annual take-up rates varied throughout the period from between 2.8 hectares in 1986 to 18.6 hectares in 1989.

5.7 An analysis of the location of the take-up of industrial land over the past ten years shows that by far the largest amount of development has occurred in the Bromborough area. In part, this is a reflection of the large amount of surplus land available, but is also indicative of the attractiveness of this area for new investment. The importance of Bromborough, in both a Wirral and Merseyside context, has been highlighted in the Merseyside Strategic Sites Study conducted for the Merseyside local authorities by Coopers Lybrand Deloitte.

5.8 An analysis of the enquiries received by the Council's Economic Development Unit during 1990 and 1991 is set out below and indicates that the size of site most frequently sought by potential investors lies within a range of between 0.8 and 6.0 hectares:

For sites of 0.8 to 2.0 hectares there were 14 enquiries
For sites of 2.0 to 4.0 hectares there were 7 enquiries
For sites of 4.0 to 6.0 hectares there were 7 enquiries
For sites of 6.0 to 20.0 hectares there were 6 enquiries
For sites of over 20.0 hectares there were 9 enquiries

5.9 There are a number of conflicting influences which have to be balanced when determining the quantity and location of employment land in the UDP. Based on an average annual take-up rate of 7.8 hectares, the UDP should provide for a total of 117 hectares of employment land for the Plan period to 2001. However, while past rates of development provide a general indication of levels of activity in the Borough, they are not necessarily a reliable guide to future rates of development. The current Objective One proposals for Bromborough, for example, may lead to an acceleration in the rate of development.

5.10 Other factors that also need to be considered in assessing employment land requirements include:

- the desirability of providing a range of sites in locations attractive to investors;
- the high levels of unemployment and low mobility in the Borough’s inner urban areas; and
- the needs of existing Wirral firms who might wish to expand their activities.

5.11 It can also be envisaged that the type of site most attractive to some investors may not necessarily be in a location which will maximise urban regeneration benefits or which will be is accessible to people without access to a car.

5.12 The pattern of allocations set out within the UDP, therefore, seeks to strike a balance between these competing demands, by identifying a range of sites of different size, type and location. The concentration on a broad UDP strategy for the whole of Wirral means that small sites of less than one hectare are not identified within this Written Statement or shown on the accompanying Proposals Map. Instead, a number of policies, to be contained in Part Two of the Plan, will identify criteria against which proposals for such sites will be assessed.