A local music celebrity, Sam Ostler, has teamed up with Oakland International and Elliot Vaughan Music to produce a music single to highlight the perceived postcode lottery approach to planning applications experienced by numerous expanding businesses.
Oakland’s Co-founder and Chief Executive, Dean Attwell’s view is: “The planning system is broken and is in desperate need of reform if UK businesses are to continue to drive the UK’s economic prosperity.
“The challenge that many businesses like us face is one of a postcode lottery as far as local planning authorities are concerned – some are very good, but sadly far too many planning authorities are very poor in their approach to understanding and encouraging business retention and growth within their Districts.”
The single ‘Application Refused’ is available for download via iTunes – with all proceeds going to benefit the Redditch and Bromsgrove community.
A family owned multi-temperature food storage and distribution company, employing 245 full time staff and based in the Bromsgrove District of Worcestershire, Bromsgrove District Council again refused a November planning application by Oakland International that would have directly benefitted the local economy, created new jobs and safeguarded existing jobs for the future.
According to the Government’s own ranking assessment of planning authorities across the country, they place Bromsgrove Council at the bottom of this league table and officially the worst – 336th out of 336 authorities and placed in ‘special measures’ – a new term created for the worst performing councils in the UK.
Oakland’s Redditch based facility has continued to grow despite recent challenging economic conditions, underpinned by their successful business model of supporting predominantly small to medium-sized food producers looking for retailer and foodservice storage, packing and distribution contract assistance across the UK and Ireland.
The company has also been requested by Bromsgrove Council to relocate, and to stop growing, but the Redditch firm does not wish to move from their traditional location and have successfully proved that moving is not a viable option for them due to their existing business growth and need to retain a talented workforce, and that by moving they would be committing economic suicide for the business.
“Why would a local planning authority want to expel an employer with strong moral values, real growth potential and offering well paid jobs that have always been above the National Living Wage, particularly when set against the backdrop locally of business stagnation, child poverty and low personal aspiration?” added Mr Attwell.
Bromsgrove Council’s Planning Department’s argument for refusal is based on protection of the Green Belt, in this case a derelict site sandwiched between wasteland and a scrapyard and adjacent to the busy A435 dual carriageway to Birmingham and the M42 motorway. Bromsgrove Council have also stated that Economic development on Oakland’s site is not welcome, commenting Oakland is ‘growing like topsy’ and, on more than one occasion, have asked Oakland to relocate.
With an industry leading heritage and an award winning record of environmental initiatives, Oakland International continues to lead by example in local community support initiatives, launching its own charitable foundation, the Oakland Foundation, in 2013 to address local child poverty issues in Redditch and Bromsgrove in addition to accommodating the Foodbank for the area.
Redditch Food Bank supported
Located within Oakland International’s warehouse facility, the Redditch Food Bank resupplies Foodbank Centres in the town on a weekly basis, with Foodbank volunteers working at Oakland’s facility sorting donations destined for local families.
To date Oakland has saved around 1,800 tonnes of food from going to waste, and food which could not be saved forwarded to the nearest Anaerobic Digestion Plant to be used for renewable energy.
Green initiatives and technologies are utilised throughout the business and have been for over a decade, steadily reducing their carbon footprint/energy consumption by replacing energy rich with renewable alternatives and increasing the use of clean, green eco-friendly options. Sustainability and renewable energy remains paramount despite being refused an application of a wind turbine on site.
The need to conserve the environment and Green Belt for future generations is an integral part of Oakland’s plans which is why they utilise solar power, have installed LED lighting and energy efficient radiators, recycle cardboard and plastic and staff can utilise Oakland’s electric car and bicycle fleet. Going one step further, Oakland has even installed an energy efficient reed bed system and on-site sewage treatment plant which uses less energy than conventional sewage treatment methods. Added to this, the business model for consolidating the deliveries from 100’s of suppliers onto one vehicle has been proven to reduce road miles by up to 84% – Oakland estimates that it is currently taking over 100 million food miles away from the UK’s congested road network.
‘Top 100 Employers in the County’ and ‘Top 1,000 Companies to Inspire Britain’
Oakland International as one of the fastest growing businesses in the county of Worcestershire, is officially ranked amongst the top 100 employers in the county and has just been listed in the London Stock Exchange’s recent report on ‘1000 Companies to Inspire Britain’. The report lists 1,000 of the fastest-growing and most dynamic small and medium–sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK.
So what is Oakland International doing?
Oakland is intent on highlighting the disparity between what Central Government is saying and what Local Government is doing.
Launch of the ‘Application Refused’ single on iTunes – all proceeds from the download will be used to benefit the underprivileged in Redditch and Bromsgrove via the Oakland Foundation.
Oakland has launched a dedicated website (www.plannersblockbusiness.co.uk) with the aim of collecting other businesses’ views on planning authority experiences, Locally and Nationally (good and bad), and once enough support has been generated, a petition will then ignite debate in parliament to discuss planning policy issues and planning policy interpretation by local authorities.
You can follow Oakland’s campaign on Twitter and Facebook