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Can your council lend a hand to small businesses?

March 17, 2021

Find out how using a Local Development Order can tip the scales in favour of small businesses near you

By Mary Crew

As we look ahead to a post-pandemic world, the need to support economic recovery will be a clear priority for local authorities everywhere. Easing the burden for small businesses and finding ways to help them grow will be an important step in lessening the financial burdens COVID-19 has brought to communities.

It became clear early in 2020 that the coronavirus pandemic would not only create a healthcare crisis but an economic one too. In response to this, Somerset West and Taunton (SWT) Council realised they would need to take action to help the small businesses in their area survive and thrive.

Several small businesses had been in touch with the council prior to the pandemic requesting help to set up or expand their existing operations. As the need to promote economic recovery became increasingly urgent, the council realised this was an area where they needed to help. After working with Stantec to complete an Employment Land Review, a solution presented itself. 

With an LDO, business owners don’t need to obtain full planning permission to build, allowing them to make savings in costs and time.

A Local Development Order (LDO) provides a clear way to help businesses grow while reducing the time and costs traditionally associated with expansion. An LDO presents local authorities with an affordable employment land policy that makes it easier for small businesses to expand or establish themselves. With an LDO, business owners don’t need to obtain full planning permission to build, allowing them to make savings in costs and time.

The LDO in the South West will also allow small businesses to expand away from established centres so they can benefit from lower running costs and bring employment back into the community.

Cllr Mike Rigby, Executive Member for Planning and Transportation with SWT Council, said: “The LDO is a positive planning tool which will make it easier and faster to progress the appropriate development of small-scale employment space. It will help businesses to start up and expand according to the principles of sustainability - in the methods proposed for construction and landscaping of the buildings, and by encouraging employment uses close to where people live. The need for us to support business and encourage employment opportunities has never been more important. We want to help as many of our local businesses as possible to survive through these difficult times and to prosper as restrictions begin to ease.” 

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A Local Development Order (LDO) provides a clear way to help businesses grow while reducing the time and costs traditionally associated with expansion.

Stantec and LHC Design secured approval for the LDO in September 2020 and the planning process is now in place to support the development of small-scale employment space across the district. Which is great news for local businesses in Somerset West and Taunton. Not only does the LDO free small businesses from the traditional planning application process, it also gives them the opportunity to be responsive to the current situation. Covid-19 has made everyone reconsider their working environment; now small businesses can use this LDO to create or expand premises at home or nearby.

Stantec led the preparation of the SWT LDO and worked closely with LHC Design, who developed the accompanying Design Code to provide guidance on how to deliver high quality small-scale employment space appropriate to a specific site.

Amy Sanders, Associate at urban design consultancy, LHC Design, commented: “LHC is pleased to have worked with Stantec to deliver this LDO at a time when it is needed most. It will ensure that a high and consistent standard of design is delivered and allow small businesses to thrive in sustainable and safe working environments. It will give rise to great opportunities in the South West and is a model other local authorities could easily follow.”

Stantec has previously supported the South West with the LDO for Nexus at Junction 25, which is encouraging new business to the site and creating new jobs.

To find out more about the promotion and delivery of LDO’s in your area, get in touch with CommunityConnections@stantec.com.

About the Author

Mary specialises in making the link between planning and delivery, and is involved with a variety of planning and regeneration projects. This includes advising various local authorities on numerous Local Development Order (LDO) projects.

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