Supporting Local Business
To encourage rural economic growth and employment, through support of business expansion and development which is appropriate and in keeping with the Parish’s intrinsic character and environment.
Located between the triangle of three large towns, (Stevenage, Letchworth and Hitchin), Wymondley Parish provides a unique and idyllic setting for numerous residential and commercial businesses. It combines easy access to and from arterial routes with the benefits of working in a rural village setting.
The Parish is populated with businesses which are diverse in nature. Similarly, the proportion of those people who are economically active and work from home covers a varied cross-section of skill sets, with approximately 40 businesses active within the Parish.
The Office of National Statistics (ONS) reported that, in the 2011 Census, of the recorded 975 residents in our neighbourhood catchment area, 133 people were self-employed. That equates to 13.6% of the total residents.
Whilst resident businesses provide employment in areas such as those set out below, they rarely employ large numbers of local residents and we seek to encourage this where we can:
A harmonious balance presently exists between achieving economic prosperity for our resident businesses and preserving the rural character of our villages, and it is imperative to the community that this is maintained. The impact of any physical expansion of business premises is therefore a key factor in our consideration of any development proposals.
The hub of our community
Wymondley Parish has several public houses providing food, local ales and a meeting point for customers from near and far. Little Wymondley has the benefit of the newly opened Needham House Hotel, a facility which provides fine dining, accommodation and a new conference centre - to name but a few of its services. Similar facilities can also be found elsewhere, for example at Redcoats Farmhouse Hotel and Wymondley Priory Barn.
In more rural areas, when stand-alone post offices and village shops have become unviable, local pubs have often diversified to offer those additional services to the community. Many years ago, in recognition of this and other benefits of wider involvement with the local community, Adnam’s Brewery coined the phrase “The Pub is the Hub”. As the pub industry started to decline in popularity, the idea was that public houses became the “Hub” of the community – acting as a meeting place where people of all ages and abilities could enjoy a variety of refreshments, engage in recreational activities and share their experiences. This informal social and business networking has a positive impact not only on the publican’s business, but also generates business (and other) opportunities for local tradesmen and residents, and is beneficial to the community’s general well-being and socio-economic health.
We are fortunate that our parish hostelries play an active part in community life, not only as described above, but through charitable fund raising and practical support of village Fun Days etc. (Recent fund-raising examples are the acquisition of a defibrillator, (currently kept at the Plume of Feathers in Little Wymondley), and a CPR training pack for Wymondley JMI School.) We do indeed view our public houses as the hub of our community, and regard their continued existence as an important influence on the quality of life in a rural parish – from both a social and economic perspective.
Keeping Businesses local
In recent years, consumers have increasingly been encouraged to move away from large, impersonal “big-box” retailers, to support smaller and more local businesses in their own towns and villages. Such businesses include local farmers, craftsmen, mobile grocers, fish mongers and other product providers, with items made and produced locally and sold on a small scale.
By supporting our local businesses, both within the Parish and in neighbouring towns, we enjoy a number of direct and indirect benefits such as greater confidence in the origins and quality of the products; smaller carbon footprint; and an improved local economy, leading to increased local investment and better facilities. There are also other tangible benefits to be gained. Aside from convenience, availability of unique products unavailable in larger chain-stores, and the satisfaction of indirectly helping to make our communities better places in which to live, we can benefit from:
As well as the types of resident businesses mentioned at paragraph 14.4 above, a good network of self-employed tradesmen exists within the Parish; and we are fortunate that neighbouring towns such as Hitchin, Letchworth, Baldock and Stevenage provide us with a wide range of local shops and businesses, as well as national chain stores. Hitchin Market, for example, is well known throughout the county and well supported locally - as are the regular Farmers/Food Markets and local butchers and fishmongers, (including mobile businesses serving our Parish).
Employment in our parish
Wymondley Parish, as reported by the 2011 Census, provides statistical data regarding the type of employment held within our community . (See graph below.)
Economic activity in your neighbourhood, March 2011
Small businesses can impact on the local community by employing local people in order to meet the market demand for goods and services; and this is certainly the case within our parish. Although 60% of employed parishioners hold senior and administrative jobs, there is also scope (particularly through local networking) for further such employment within the community and surrounding area, for example through contracting of self-employed workers.
New employment opportunities provide chances for previously unemployed or under-employed workers to increase take home pay and better meet their financial obligations. Increased employee earnings lead to a higher rate of consumer spending which, in turn, benefits other businesses which depend on consumer sales to stay open and pay vendors. A small business hiring additional employees can achieve these effects on a small scale and increase the money circulating in the marketplace, which leads to a healthier overall local economy and allows more businesses to thrive.
We believe that our community and businesses continuing to work together is key to the survival of the Parish in its current form.
Policy SLBE1: We will continue to support and seek to encourage the economic growth of our local businesses - particularly the public houses which form the hub of our community; our local farmers who manage and conserve our natural environment; and the hotels/wedding venues and other businesses which encourage visitors to the Parish, thereby boosting its economy.
We must nevertheless bear in mind the intrinsic rural nature and historic character of the Parish, and the need to ensure that any physical expansion of those businesses does not detract from its key features and further urbanise it. (Issues relating to this are covered in more depth in Sections 6 and 7 of this Plan.)
Policy SLBE2: We will work positively with local businesses, landowners and relevant planning authorities to ensure that any proposed business development within Wymondley Parish is appropriate in terms of location, scale and type; and is otherwise in keeping with the intrinsic character and environment of our parish. (In relation to business premises on the Elms Close industrial estate in Little Wymondley, for example, we would seek to limit any expansion on this site to within its current boundary.)
Policy SLBE3: We will carefully scrutinise any proposals for the development of additional industrial premises in, or directly adjacent to, the Parish (as put forward by Stevenage Borough Council (SBC), for example). Where there is evidence that such development would have a detrimental effect on existing parish businesses; be wholly inappropriate due to inconsistency with the look and feel of the area; or would exacerbate existing infrastructure problems (particularly in relation to flood risk and traffic management) we will oppose them.
Due to the surrounding Green Belt, and the associated development prohibitions, there are no justifiable opportunities for development of additional business premises outside of Little Wymondley. With limited space within Little Wymondley, expansion of the Parish’s existing businesses, (or development of additional businesses), would therefore necessitate a move to a larger or more suitable location within existing industrial sites in nearby towns, or consider alternatives.
Policy SLBE4: Given the number of already vacant plots in Stevenage and Hitchin, we find further encroachment on our surrounding Green Belt, (through urban creep of commercial or domestic development from both towns), totally unacceptable and we oppose it.