Horley business park proposal

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  1. 1. Horley business park proposal
  2. 2. You are here: Frequently asked questions

2. Frequently asked questions

This page contains answers to common questions about the project. These will be updated as more information becomes available.

Why is the Council supporting this project?

The Council’s Reigate & Banstead 2025 five year plan (2020-2025) and its Core Strategy both recognise that attracting increased inward investment is important in delivering economic benefits for the borough and jobs for residents.

The proposed business park is an opportunity to provide high quality employment space in a variety of sizes and configurations to suit small, medium and large organisations in an attractive, accessible environment with supporting facilities.

There is demand for modern larger-scale employment space in the borough, from local businesses, the wider region and from abroad. As businesses looking to invest in the borough – some already based here and others considering relocating – have been unable to find accommodation that meets their needs, they are moving elsewhere.

For the Gatwick Diamond sub-region, the heart of which covers the southern part of our borough, a lack of employment land for new development and inward investment has been identified as one of the issues inhibiting economic growth.

What has happened so far?

In 2016 a project team was formed to explore options for developing an office-based business park on the outskirts of Horley. This team commissioned site surveys so that an initial design and planning processes could begin.

In July 2019, the Council reviewed its Core Strategy that sets out the strategic vision for growth and where sustainable development should be delivered in the borough to 2027. This was followed in September 2019 by adoption of The Development Management Plan (DMP), after examination by an independent government planning inspector.  The DMP supports the delivery of the Core Strategy vision and allocates Horley Business Park as a key site in site policy HOR9.

The DMP policy HOR9 sets out the Council’s policy expectations in relation to the site. It explains that the site is allocated for a strategic business park of predominantly offices, supported by a complementary range of commercial, retail and leisure facilities.

One of the requirements in the DMP for this site is to develop a Horley Business Park Supplementary Planning Document (SPD). This guidance will help inform the masterplan and ongoing function of the site. The  Executive will consider consultation on the draft SPD at its meeting on 18 November 2021.

What must happen before a business park can receive planning consent?

The landowner/site promoter must prepare and submit a masterplan for the development of the site based upon the site allocation in the DMP and on the adopted HBP SPD.

Before submitting any planning applications, the landowner/site promoter of the site is also required to carry out pre-application consultation.

Any outline and detailed planning applications submitted subsequently should be consistent with the masterplan, including through submission of a comprehensive set of accompanying technical studies and a Transport Assessment. Any application will be considered by the Council’s Planning Committee, considering it solely on its planning merits against adopted development plan policies and material planning considerations.

Subject to the recommendation, it could also be referred to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities for consideration by a government planning inspector. National and local planning policies and guidance dictate how an application should be appropriately determined, and all councils are bound by this.

What about the Council’s role as both planning authority and one of the joint venture partners?

The Council's role as a joint venture partner is separate from the Council’s involvement as local planning authority. All planning work and the draft SPD has been prepared by the Council’s Planning Policy Team, retaining an ‘ethical wall’ (an information barrier) between the Council’s interest as a joint venture partner, and its role as local planning authority.

It’s not unusual for a council to be both applicant and local planning authority, making and deciding applications for their own development on land in which they have an interest (for example, where a county council is both the planning and education authority for schools). However, that ability is subject to several important safeguards, national and local planning policies and guidance that dictate how an application should be appropriately determined, and all councils are bound by this.

Do we still need another business park in the region? Have things changed since the pandemic or Brexit?

The ambition of the Council is not just to provide another office-based business park, but to provide the best in class in the South East, a strategic employment site with an international reputation. A business park of this nature would complement existing business and industrial estates in the surrounding area.

To help inform the draft SPD, in 2020 the Council’s Planning Policy Team commissioned independent, expert consultants, Chilmark Consulting, to consider the latest situation, and to advise on the impact on market demand or other aspects of the Horley Business Park proposals due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit. The Team also commissioned independent, expert consultants, David Lock Associates to investigate layouts and design principles for the HOR9 site allocation.

Chilmark Consulting found that for this 20-year plus strategic project, there remains a need for a new, high quality and easily accessible business park despite the short-term market adjustments. Both reports were finalised in 2021 and are included in the Horley Business Park SPD item at the Executive meeting on 18 November 2021.

What are the benefits for residents and businesses in the borough?

If given the go ahead, it would create thousands of new jobs, many of them open to local people, and attract significant inward investment. That investment creates opportunities for businesses already established in the Horley area and the wider borough. The site will include space for start-ups and other small businesses, plus onsite services and a new public park.

Improved public transport, pedestrian and cycle routes would help employees and locals to move around the area without using a car. The new public park would also provide a better connection with the town centre and encourage people to visit and take advantage of the retail, leisure and other opportunities in Horley.

What makes this site a suitable location for large-scale employment space?

Employment sites of this size are rare in the region and there is nothing comparable in the borough.

The reason this location is suitable for large scale employment, and is so attractive to businesses, is the combination of proximity to Gatwick Airport and connection to the rail network and the national strategic road network, via the M23 spur.

Gatwick Airport is a major employer for Horley residents, but the town does not currently make the most of its location next to a significant draw for international businesses.

What communication happens about the proposals and during the planning process?

We recognise the ongoing importance of communicating with residents, landowners and other stakeholders and value their involvement and feedback as this long-term project progresses. Appropriate communication happens depending on the information sharing or involvement needed at each stage, taking into account the need to maintain separation between each of the Council's roles.  

The next proposed communication will depend on the Executive decision on 18 November 2021 and involve the Council’s Planning Policy Team asking for feedback on the draft Horley Business Park Supplementary Planning Document.

The Council is committed to engaging with the local community and local interest groups at a stage when there are meaningful and realistic proposals to seek views on. Public and stakeholder engagement will need to take place before the submission of any planning application.

As with all planning applications, comments would also be invited at future planning application stages.

What about the costs for the project and the financial security of the Council’s investment?

Reports on the project have been considered by the appropriate Council committees at key stages, including financial information. If the project were to progress at some point in the future, we will need to tender for contracts for further work and do not want to prejudice the quotes and costs for that work by putting financial information into the public domain.

Financial information not considered to be, or that is no longer commercially sensitive, has and will continue to be published as per requirements.

There will be further sign-offs at key stages and any further expenditure would require full Council approval.

How will the Council and taxpayers benefit if the project is a success?

The Council will benefit from a share of development profits and/or rental income from the development together with any non-domestic rates from the businesses located there. Those funds will be invested into the local services that Reigate & Banstead Borough Council provides for its residents.

Aren’t there restrictions about building on this green land?

The Horley Business Park site has never been designated as Green Belt land or been part of the Green Belt. Originally the site was in the designation of the Rural surrounds of Horley, which was removed in the 2019 DMP when it was allocated as a key site.  The southern part of the site is still designated as part of the Gatwick Open Setting and will have restrictions limiting development to things such as road access.

The site does not have public access, except for a public right of way footpath running across it. This path will be retained, either in its current position or rerouted if necessary.

Any future planning application would also need to comply with the Council's Climate Change and Sustainable Construction Supplementary Planning Document (SPD), adopted in September 2021.

What about the wildlife and ecology on the site?

The Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 (section 40) requires all public bodies to have regard to biodiversity conservation when carrying out their functions.

Ecology surveys are among those that would need to be conducted as part of the planning process. Habitat will be replaced where necessary.    

Were other locations for a business park considered?

Other locations were considered during the preparation and consultation of the DMP and this Horley location was included as a key site in the final adopted DMP in 2019.

During preparation of the DMP the Horley Business Park site was subject to sustainability appraisal to consider its suitability for a sustainable urban extension as well as for an employment site, this resulted in the site being allocated for a strategic business park of predominantly offices, supported by a complementary range of commercial, retail and leisure facilities.

No other sites in the borough are in such a strategic position or could accommodate this scale of development with the benefit of access to the road and public transport network. The independent examiner of the DMP agreed and found this site allocation to be acceptable with required modifications, such as a ‘cap/restriction’ on the number of vehicles accessing the site from the M23 spur.

Is the land prone to flooding?

Parts of the site (in the north and east) are identified by the Environment Agency as being at risk of flooding, in Flood Zone 2. The site allocation reflects this, with restrictions on development in these areas and requirement for a new public park.  

Does the project assume the expansion of Gatwick Airport?

The development of the scheme is independent of Gatwick’s expansion plans. The scheme would not affect the airport’s ability to expand and could be accommodated alongside any second runway.

The emerging plans for Gatwick Airport propose that some of the land currently allocated in the DMP for Horley Business Park be used as a site compound, specifically land within the identified ‘strategic gap’ between the main development site and the M23 spur road.  The Gatwick proposals also include works to the M23 spur road, which will need to be considered in conjunction with the DMP site allocation.

When might the project be delivered?

There are various stages to go through before the project could be delivered.

These include the Council’s Executive agreeing to consult on the draft Horley Business Park SPD and amendments to it resulting from public feedback, followed by adoption of the SPD to inform the master plan, planning application and site delivery and function.

The landowner/site promoter would need to develop and consult on their pre-planning application before they submit a planning application. Further detail on delivery is set out in the draft SPD.