West Mersea Neighbourhood Plan
8 - To preserve the long-term viability of the harbour for maritime, commercial and leisure activities
9 - To support the sustainable development of satisfactory, long-term employment on the island for Mersea residents.
8.1 West Mersea plays an important role in the economy of Mersea Island as a whole and the wider area. At the time of the 2011 Census, 44% of the population were in employment although one-third of these were in part-time employment.
8.2 The main "industries" of employment of residents, as defined by the Census, were:
- Wholesale and retail trade and motor vehicle repairs 17.1%
- Construction 12.2%
- Health and social work 11.2%
- Education 10.4%
Almost 50% of those in employment in 2011 travelled in excess of 10 kilometres to get to work while 15% worked mainly from home.
8.3 The provision of opportunities to work in the town is an important factor that will contribute to the sustainability of West Mersea. There are currently four significant locations for work, namely Waldegraves Farm Business Park, The Boat Yards on Coast Road, Rushmere Close and Haycocks Lane. The retention of these sites for employment uses will be supported and proposals for employment related development will be supported provided there is no detrimental impact on the local landscape character, the amenity of local residents and that traffic generated by the proposal would not have an unacceptable impact on the local road network.
8.4 Given the need to maintain opportunities for employment, the loss of employment premises will be resisted unless it can be demonstrated that specific criteria, as identified in Policy WM 13 can be met.
Policy WM 13 - Retention of existing employment centres
The retention and intensification of employment premises at:
- Waldegraves Farm Business Park,
- The Boat Yards, Coast Road,
- Rushmere Close, and
- Haycocks Lane,
as identified on the Policies Map, will be supported provided proposals do not have a detrimental impact on the local landscape character, the amenity of residents and would not generate unacceptable levels of vehicular traffic on local roads.
Proposals for non-employment uses will only be permitted where:
- there is a sufficient supply of alternative and suitable employment land available to meet local employment requirements; or
- evidence can be provided that genuine attempts have been made to sell / let the site in its current use, and that no suitable and viable alternative employment uses can be found or are likely to be found in the foreseeable future; or
- the existing use has created over-riding environmental problems (e.g. noise, odours or traffic) and permitting an alternative use would be a substantial environmental benefit that would outweigh the loss of an employment site; or
- an alternative use or mix of uses would assist in urban regeneration and offer greater community or sustainability benefits that would outweigh the loss of the employment; or
- the proposal is for an employment related support facility such as employment training education, workplace crêche or café.
8.5 Opportunities to provide new prospects for employment, especially by those starting out, will be encouraged. Although there is a significant proportion of the workforce working from home, as small businesses expand there may be a demand for workspaces to accommodate them. One such approach to enabling the formation and expansion of small business is through the provision of "co-operative workspaces" where facilities such as office space, meeting rooms and IT can be located. Proposals for such facilities in the town will be encouraged, especially in locations accessible by good quality walking and cycling networks.
Policy WM 14 - Co-operative workspaces
Proposals to provide a co-operative working space, by way of a communal 'seedbed centre', offering centralised office services & meeting rooms will be supported where it can be demonstrated that there will be no detrimental impact on
- the character of the area; and
- residential amenity; and
- the highways network
Community Aspiration 1
Initiatives for joint ventures which provide benefits of networking and reduced costs will be supported.
Marine Related Businesses
8.6 Fishing and oyster businesses, as well as sailing and boating activities on Mersea Island are especially important to the local economy as well as the character of Coast Road. However, the Coast Road environment is especially fragile given the variety of international designations covering the area, the important contribution the area makes to the tourist economy and the threat of sea level rise resulting from climate change. Locally, Coast Road is also a designated Conservation Area, placing further restrictions on the design and impact of any proposals.
8.7 The Neighbourhood Plan supports the retention of the fishing and oyster industry at West Mersea as well as activities that support sailing and boating activities where there will not be an unacceptable impact on the internationally designated sites, are appropriate in terms of the flood risk and would not result in a significant and detrimental increase in vehicular traffic on the island.
Policy WM 15 - Marine Services
Proposals that support the retention of the fishing and oyster industries, sailing and boating activities
around Coast Road, the waterside and harbour, as identified on the Policies Map, will be supported where they:
- can demonstrate no likely significant effects on adjacent European sites or where impacts can be appropriately mitigated; and
- will deliver or sustain social and economic benefits considered important to the wellbeing of the coastal communities; and
- will not generate a significant increase in traffic; and
- represent an appropriate use with regards to flood risk.
8.8 The retail economy continues to be under strict pressure as new forms of trading such as online shopping continues to evolve. There is currently a nucleus of shops and other town centre type businesses along Kingsland Road, Barfield Road, High Street, Yorick Road and Church Road and designated as a District Centre in the emerging Local Plan, which notes that:
"The centre's retail offer is somewhat dispersed but relatively distinct owing to the diversity of independent retailers. It has a substantial walk-in catchment and is reasonably well served by bus.
Overall, the retail evidence confirms that West Mersea is a vital and viable centre within the limitations of its small scale and localised nature. The mix of uses and the high level of occupancy would suggest that it serves an important role in the retail hierarchy."
8.9 In September 2020 the Government abolished the retail "use class" and merged those uses in to a wider encompassing Class E - Commercial, Business and Service. The change of use of shops to other uses in this class no longer requires planning consent. However, proposals for the loss of commercial, business or service uses will not be supported unless it can be demonstrated that it will not have a detrimental impact on the vitality and viability of the Town Centre.
Policy WM 16 - Town Centre
The Town Centre, as identified on the Policies Map, will be the focal point for main town centre uses such as retail, office, leisure and entertainment.
The change of use from Use Class E to other uses will only be supported where it can be satisfactorily demonstrated that the vitality and viability of the defined Town Centre will not be harmed and where:
- the proposal will not remove existing or potential beneficial use of upper floors; and
- the proposal will not adversely affect the amenity of the surrounding area by virtue of noise, litter, congestion on pavements, or disturbance arising from late night opening.
Proposals to expand an existing retail use, retail service, community use, financial/ businesses service or a leisure service will be considered favourably where it can be demonstrated that the use is small scale proportionate to the role and function of such centres and will serve the basic needs of local communities.
Proposals will be required to demonstrate that they will not adversely affect residential amenity, particularly in terms of car parking, noise and hours of operation. Proposals should take every opportunity to promote sustainable travel behaviour.