District Local Plan Review

District-Wide Policies Index

Settlement Policies Index  

Chapter 3

Employment

Introduction

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3.1 The northern and southern parts of the District display very different employment characteristics.

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3.2 The south Forest of Dean has a long history of mineral exploitation and associated metal industries and manufacturing. Coal mining has now ceased (except for small-scale free mining), although quarrying for stone continues. Manufacturing however remains a very substantial industrial sector, with a number of individual businesses being of a considerable scale. Much of the industry and other economic activity is concentrated in the three south Forest towns. However, throughout the mining area there are industries which have taken over the sites of former coal and iron mines, and of previous heavy industries and quarries. As a result there are frequent examples of industrial uses in detached locations within the countryside.

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3.3 By contrast the north Forest of Dean displays a predominantly agricultural landscape with generally small villages. Business activities are mostly small in scale. With the exception of Newent, the only town, there are few concentrations of economic activity in the form of industrial estates.

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3.4 Up to the 1960's over half of all jobs in the District were in the primary and manufacturing sectors with coal mining being a significant employer of the male workforce. All deep mining has now ceased, but manufacturing has continued as a major employer. However, in the recession of the 1980's one in three production jobs in the District were lost, contributing to an unemployment rate at the time which rose to over 18%.

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3.5 The local economy has recovered greatly in the last decade. Current unemployment is below 3% (2.9% October 1999). Nevertheless, the structure of the local economy continues to reflect its past. Manufacturing provides about 30% of all jobs, compared to the Great Britain figure of 18%. The service sector has overtaken manufacturing as the largest provider of employment, but it remains relatively undeveloped when compared with the figures for Great Britain (around 68% compared to 78%).

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3.6 There are a number of vulnerable elements of the local economy which need to be addressed:
  • The manufacturing sector is forecast to decline nationally
  • Relative under-development of the service sector
  • Persistently higher unemployment rates than in Gloucestershire as a whole, although currently lower than national figures
  • Lower economic activity rates than the County, particularly for females
  • Over-reliance on a small number of large employers (2% of companies provide 30% of all jobs in the District)
  • Relatively low levels of average earnings
  • Over representation of the lower skilled in the workforce

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3.7 Despite the difficulties noted above it is clear that the Forest of Dean economy has demonstrated the ability to respond to improvements in national economic circumstances. Evidence for this can be seen in the reduction of unemployment rates below the national average, the growth of the service sector which has substituted jobs for the loss of manufacturing employment, a forecast increase in manufacturing employment locally in contrast to a national decline, an increase in manufacturing capital expenditure against the wider trend, and a tourism and leisure industry which is forecast to continue to grow.

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3.8 The fluctuating fortunes of the local economy can partly be traced by reference to the external assistance given to the District over time. In 1984 the southern part of the District was designated a Rural Development Area and also an Assisted Area. The latter designation was withdrawn in 1993, but the former was re-confirmed and extended to encompass most of the District. In 1999 the south of the District was given a third tier Assisted Area status, and also designated as a Coalfield Regeneration Area. The current draft Regional Planning Guidance and the Structure Plan both recognise the need for economic regeneration within the southern part of the Forest of Dean.

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3.9 The relative vulnerability of the Forest of Dean economy contrasts with the situation in the County as a whole, which generally has a more prosperous and thriving economy. There are also related issues for the Forest of Dean which arise from its economic circumstances, including lower household incomes, higher levels of long-term illness, lower levels of educational attainment and lower economic activity rates. There are high levels of out-commuting from the District to adjoining employment centres, particularly Gloucester, which reflects both the absolute shortage of job opportunities locally and the greater diversity of opportunities elsewhere, particularly for higher skilled and managerial jobs, with their higher salary levels.

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3.10 The above circumstances form the basis for the recognition in the Structure Plan of the need for economic and social regeneration in the southern part of the Forest of Dean, where the need for revitalisation is greatest. The draft Regional Planning Guidance identifies the Forest of Dean as an investment priority area, as does the Government through the allocation of an Assisted Area Status and a Coalfield Regeneration area.

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Issues

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3.11 The principal issue for the Local Plan is to provide a basis for achieving a thriving and diverse local economy in the Forest of Dean, to contribute to the strategic aim of revitalisation.

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3.12 The elements which will support this aim include provision of land and infrastructure for business development, support for increased business competitiveness, enhancing skills levels, developing community businesses, maintaining an attractive and high quality natural and built environment, and actively pursuing external funding opportunities for economic development. These are the key objectives of the Council's Economic Development Strategy.

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3.13 The District Council with its partner organisations is committed to pursuing initiatives in all the strategic areas identified above. The Local Plan will contribute to this strategy by ensuring that the context for economic regeneration is supported by the policies and proposals of the Plan Review.

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3.14 Between 1991 and 2011 the estimated additional job needs of the resident population is assessed to be around 3,000 jobs. Employment in the District remained roughly stable between 1991 - 1998, and therefore this increase will need to be accommodated over the Plan period 1996 - 2011.

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3.15 It is anticipated that the majority of new employment will be in the service sector. Much of this will be accommodated within existing or expanded sites and premises, for example in the stock of town centre retail and commercial premises or in existing facilities such as schools, health services or public service offices. Plan policies and proposals must ensure that the opportunity for such forms of development exist, particularly in town centres, and include sites for refurbishment, redevelopment and new development. Service businesses are increasingly also seeking sites in good quality environments and accessible locations such as business parks. The Plan should make provision for such developments. Sectors such as tourism, recreation and leisure are forecast to have significant growth potential, and the Plan will need to provide a policy framework to encourage such development.

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3.16 The manufacturing sector is of great importance to the local economy in terms of jobs provided. Unlike the national trends the sector is forecast to increase its employment locally over the Plan period. To remain competitive manufacturing businesses will need to invest in plant, machinery and premises, including the possibility of site redevelopment or relocation. New businesses will also be formed to replace the expected workforce reduction amongst established businesses. Overall therefore the Plan will need to ensure that there is a plentiful supply of land suitable for a wide variety of industrial needs, from starter businesses to high quality business sites. Optimum use will be made of the development and redevelopment potential of existing employment sites. The Plan will need to provide most new employment opportunities in the towns, to complement the proposed housing land allocations at these locations. This will help to provide a balance of homes and jobs, reduce the growth of vehicle usage, and provide for social inclusion.

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3.17 A major issue for the Plan is to ensure an adequate supply of land for employment, to provide for a diverse range of sites to cater for the needs of both large and small businesses and to provide for high quality sites, together with sites suitable for businesses with less demanding needs. The Forest of Dean has for many years lacked larger sites which would provide for major new developments. At times this has undoubtedly inhibited investment plans by existing businesses, and has meant the District has been unable to compete either for major investment inquiries directed towards the region, or for the needs of businesses seeking high quality environments. The Plan will identify land at Lydney capable of accommodating such large scale development.

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3.18 A feature of many of the existing industrial sites in the District, and of some of the additional sites allocated in this Plan, is that they occupy sites previously used for other purposes, including coal mining, iron mining, quarrying and heavy metal industries. Those re-occupied by successor industries often display relatively low environmental and amenity standards. There are three issues arising from these circumstances which the Plan must address. The first is the need to secure environmental improvements when new development is proposed, as well as programmes of improvements originated by the District Council. The second issue is that many sites allocated in the Plan have potential problems of instability and contamination which would inhibit development. The District Council will work with partner organisations and the private sector to overcome these problems and to assist the development process. The third issue arising is that some of these existing sites are not well-located, for example being adjacent to residential areas or being otherwise intrusive, in the open countryside for example. The Plan however must balance such problems, which are widespread, with the need to support the economy of the District, and normally to give priority to retaining these employment uses while also enabling beneficial changes to take place within the employment site.

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3.19 Employment in traditional agriculture is forecast to continue to decline, although the sector overall may retain its share of employment through the growth of related contracting and other enterprises. The diversification of the rural economy will remain a trend, with new farm and countryside based businesses being established in tourism, leisure and food processing for example. The Plan will support such development in recognition of its contribution to the social and economic well-being of rural communities, and as a contribution to employment growth in the District.

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Strategic Framework

3.20 The revitalisation of the economy of the Forest of Dean is a fundamental element of the Plan strategy. The principal elements of the strategy include a sufficient and varied land allocation to provide for the approximate 3,000 additional job requirement to 2011, ensuring infrastructure provision to support development, promoting the vitality and viability of town centres, providing for a high quality environment for business development, and meeting the needs of the rural economy.

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3.21 The strategy will concentrate most new employment development in the four towns of the District, where the greatest opportunities for growth exist, in locations accessible to the workforce, and supported by existing infrastructure and services. The great majority of new development will be in the south Forest area, where the revitalisation needs are the greatest. Within the south Forest Lydney will be the strategic focus for development. The revitalisation needs of Cinderford will also be supported, whilst in Coleford the emphasis will be on enhancing its market town role in retailing, tourism and commerce.

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3.22 The Plan will support the economic and social well-being of rural communities by enabling business development in villages, supporting farm diversification, and promoting tourism, recreation and leisure enterprises.

Objectives

  1. To promote a thriving and diverse economy
  2. To provide for new employment in locations accessible to the workforce
  3. To provide a wide choice of sites and premises suitable for business and in a high quality environment

  4. To ensure infrastructure is provided to enable business development to take place

  5. To support the rural economy.

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Policies and Proposals
Principal Employment Land Allocations.
(R)FE.1

Provision for employment development will primarily be located in the south Forest. The principal land allocations for employment use will be made in the towns of Lydney, Cinderford, Coleford and Newent. Other allocations will be made at Bream, Parkend, Sling, and Cannop.

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3.23 Economic development is an integral element of the proposed revitalisation of the Forest of Dean. Therefore, new business investment will be provided for by the Plan throughout the District. In making provision for new jobs, the Plan strategy will concentrate development upon the four towns of the District, principally through employment land allocations and through policies and proposals for town centres. The emphasis of the Plan policies and proposals will be to provide for most new employment development in the south Forest, to accord with the strategic priority for revitalisation in that area.

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3.24 It is estimated that there will be a need for around 3,000 additional jobs in the District over the Plan period. The service sector is forecast to be the principal growth area for employment. Thus the Plan will need to place emphasis upon the capacity of towns and particularly town centres, to develop their roles as service centres and to provide the necessary opportunities and the quality environment required to accommodate business development. In addition, there will be a need for business sites away from town centres which offer accessibility and a high quality environment to accommodate the increasing number of service businesses which do not require a town centre location.

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3.25 Manufacturing is a significant element of the local economy, and will continue to grow locally. The Plan will need to provide for the wide range of sites required, from start up businesses to large expanding companies. A key element of the Plan is to ensure that new investment is not inhibited by a lack of appropriate sites.

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3.26 Despite the industrial history of the District it remains a largely rural area. Within this context specific industries make important contributions to the local economy, including agriculture, forestry, tourism and outdoor recreation. The Plan must ensure that policies enable these sectors to continue to contribute to the regeneration of the District, and the well-being of communities.
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3.27 The Plan strategy recognises that the priority for revitalisation is the south Forest. As a consequence the principal land allocations for employment use are located in that area. The detailed employment land allocations will be made in the respective settlement chapters of the Plan Review. They are summarised below:

Lydney - Mead Lane 7 hectares
Land east of Lydney 9 hectares
Hurst Farm 15 hectares
Elsewhere 3 hectares
Total: 34 hectares
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Cinderford - Forest Vale/Whimsey 10.2 hectares
Northern United 3 hectares
Newtown 3 hectares
Newtown Mixed Use Site 3.3 hectares
Total: 19.5 hectares
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Newent - Business Park (extension) 5.2 hectares
Cleeve Mill Buiness Park 1.5 hectares
Total: 6.7 hectares
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Coleford - Smith Kline Beecham 7 hectares
Milkwall 1 hectare
Whitecliff Quarry 1 hectare
Arthur Cooper Way 1 hectare
Total: 10 hectares
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Bream - Princess Royal Colliery 1.9 hectares
Parkend - Railway Sidings 2.4 hectares
Sling - Adjacent F.W. Watkins 1 hectare
Cannop - Former Colliery Site 3 hectares
Mixed Use Sites - 3 hectares (Estimated)
Town Centre Sites 3 hectares (Estimated)
Total: 84.5 hectares

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3.28 A total of round 84 hectares of employment land is allocated in the Plan, of which around 67 hectares are located in the three towns of Lydney, Cinderford and Coleford and up to 75 hectares in the south Forest as a whole.

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3.29 The above allocations are aimed at ensuring a diverse range of employment sites to provide for both large and small investment proposals, for high quality business park surroundings as well as traditional industrial estates, and for a choice of locations.
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3.30 The concentration of employment land allocations in the towns is intended to maximise the accessibility of the resident population to jobs, to make use of existing infrastructure and facilities, and to provide for new job opportunities in those locations where the majority of the additional housing is to be constructed.

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3.31 A strategic emphasis of revitalisation is to utilise the potential for new development at Lydney, where the largest provision is made for employment development. This includes three greenfield sites (Mead Lane, land inside the by-pass and land at Hurst Farm) which have the potential to be key land allocations intended to provide for accessible and high quality employment sites suitable for a range of businesses including services.

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3.32 The settlement pattern and industrial history of the District has resulted in significant employment areas being located in a large number of villages. There are further opportunities to allocate land for local employment at a number of these, at Bream, Parkend and Sling. Many other settlements have established employment sites which offer substantial local employment. These will be identified where appropriate in the settlement chapters, and support given to their further development where such potential exists. The Plan will support further employment opportunities in villages, where they can offer local jobs which are needed and are appropriate in scale and character.

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Development on Established Employment Sites
(R)FE. 2

The expansion of existing business and the development of new business within the boundaries of established employment sites will be permitted where the proposals do not give rise to unacceptable environmental, traffic or amenity problems. Proposals for development will be required to incorporate appropriate measures to enhance the environmental quality and amenity of employment sites.

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3.33 Existing employment sites can offer accessible local jobs for communities. The Plan will support the retention of local jobs, and will encourage new investment by business within established employment sites. The above policy provides for some limitations to be exercised to ensure that proposed new development does not have adverse impacts on the surrounding area, for example, where a site adjoins a residential area, or where there is a proposal for a process or product which may have implications for noise or atmospheric pollution. In many circumstances such impacts can be regulated to reduce the effects to acceptable levels.
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. 3.34 The particular industrial history of the Forest of Dean has resulted in a somewhat haphazard relationship of employment sites interspersed with residential and other uses in settlements, and sites in the open countryside occupying former industrial areas. The above policy provides a framework for assessing the acceptability of further development of such sites.

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3.35 A standard requirement for all proposals for development on established employment sites will be a need to address issues of environment and amenity, and to provide for appropriate enhancements. There is a legacy of sites of extractive and heavier industry in the District which have been subsequently re-occupied or redeveloped for more modern business. This evolution has meant that issues of environmental quality and amenity may have not been addressed in a planned way. The Plan specifically will seek environmental improvements as part of development proposals in these cases.

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Change of Use of Employment Land
(R)FE.3

The change of use of employment land to non employment uses will not be permitted except where:

  1. The present use gives rise to significant intrusive environmental problems detrimentally affecting adjoining land uses and which cannot be adequately addressed by existing environmental legislation
  2. The proposal is for a use or for mixed uses incorporating provision for employment development at a scale reasonably related to the prior employment use or the potential employment capacity of the site.

Where a mixed development is proposed a comprehensive development scheme will be required for the site. Where appropriate an agreement will be sought which provides for the phased implementation of the proposed employment development.

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3.36 It is important for the employment strategy of the Plan that a wide choice of employment sites are available. The above policy provides that existing or allocated employment sites should be retained for that purpose. However, exceptions may arise. Non-conforming uses may give rise to environmental problems for adjoining land uses. It is only where these are significantly detrimental that an alternative use will be considered, and only after it is clear that environmental legislation cannot adequately mitigate the causes of the problem.

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3.37 The continuing change in the structure of employment will give rise to proposals for the alternative use of employment land. For example, tourism, leisure and recreation are growing industries which can make use of former industrial sites. Although the level of jobs created may not be equivalent to a previous or current use, such proposals may be considered acceptable where the proposal gives rise to new jobs on a scale reasonably related to the former use of the site, or to the potential employment capacity of the site.

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3.38 In some locations, particularly in the towns, there will be potential for the mixed use redevelopment of employment sites which may incorporate uses such as residential, commercial, retail, tourism or leisure. The policy provides for such developments. However, to ensure the continued employment use of the site in conjunction with other uses a comprehensive proposal for the site will be required. It may also be appropriate to seek an agreed phasing of the employment development in relation to other proposed uses of the site, to ensure the jobs will be forthcoming.
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Employment in Villages
(R)FE.4

Proposals for employment development within villages or adjoining the boundaries of villages will be permitted where:

  1. They are well related in scale and nature to the size and character of the village
  2. They will not give rise to unacceptable environmental, amenity or traffic problems
  3. They will not give rise to significant additional levels of journey to work movements by private car
  4. In the case of proposals which are located outside but adjoining boundaries, there is no reasonably suitable alternative accommodation within any settlement boundary.

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3.39 Throughout their history villages have been places of work as well as places to live. This policy underlines that this dual function should continue in order to support the social and economic well-being of rural communities, and add to the economy of the District.

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3.40 The Plan provides for the great majority of new employment to be located in accessible and sustainable locations, principally in the towns. The cumulative impact of small scale employment in villages therefore is unlikely to have a significant impact upon the sustainable development of the District. However, it will be material to consider the extent to which a proposal may give rise to additional journey to work movements by car. Where the nature of the job opportunities provided by a development can reasonably be expected to be available to the locally resident workforce, or there is suitable public transport available, then concerns about the sustainability of employment development in villages will be mitigated.

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3.41 The criteria in the above policy indicate that appropriate developments in villages are likely to be small in scale and unobtrusive in nature. The Built Environment policies in the Plan provide an additional framework to regulate the impacts of any development.

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3.42 In some cases the most appropriate location for small scale employment may be outside, but adjoining, the settlement boundary. This may be due to a lack of suitable sites or buildings within a settlement. In such cases it will be relevant before considering granting a planning consent to assess whether reasonable alternative accommodation exists either within the settlement concerned, or within another town or village.
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Employment in the Countryside
(R)FE.5

Employment development in the countryside will be permitted where it meets any of the following requirements:

  1. The location proposed is adjoining a settlement boundary and complies with Policy (R)FE.4
  2. The location proposed is an established employment site and complies with Policy (R)FE.2
  3. The use proposed is for tourism, recreation or leisure and complies with Policy (R)FTRL.2
  4. The proposal comprises the re-use of an existing building and complies with Policy (R)FBE.5
  5. The use proposed is for agriculture, horticulture or forestry, and a countryside location is essential to the efficient operation of the business, and the potential for using any existing buildings to accommodate the use is fully utilised before new build is proposed.

In all cases proposals must also comply with the provisions of Policy (R)FNE.1.

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3.43 The Plan strategy seeks to safeguard the environment and amenity of the open countryside, and to locate development within settlements where there are supporting facilities. However, there are a variety of businesses which may require a countryside location for their efficient operation. This policy provides for those circumstances where such employment development would be permissable in the open countryside. In all cases existing buildings should be used to their full capacity before considering new building in the countryside.

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3.44 It will always be material to consider policy (R)FNE.1 to assess the detailed requirements for an acceptable form of development, and policy (R)FT.2 with respect to highway and traffic matters. Policy (R)F.Strategy 2 is concerned with ensuring sustainable forms of development. Because of the proposed countryside location, it will always be relevant to consider the minimisation of the energy, water and waste impacts arising from the proposal in order to contribute to a sustainable form of development.

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Agricultural Diversification

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3.45 The agricultural industry has undergone a period of change in recent years, and further change is forecast for the immediate future. National projections assume a considerable area of land going out of food production, and reductions in direct agricultural employment. Given this context the Government has advocated agricultural diversification measures to supplement farm incomes. This might take many forms.

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3.46 The policies of the Plan support the principle of employment uses in the countryside in appropriate circumstances. Possible diversification proposals include workshops, tourist accommodation, and leisure enterprises. Overall, the Plan gives support in principle to the diversification of agriculture, providing that proposals meet the criteria established in the various policies of the Plan. Policy (R)FE.5 above provides a framework for assessing relevant proposals for agricultural diversification.

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District Local Plan Review

District-Wide Policies Index

Settlement Policies Index  

 


Forest of Dean District Local Plan Review, 1st Deposit Draft. July 2000


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