Central Bedfordshire Draft Local Plan (July 2017)

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View Comments (57) (57) 13 Employment and Economy

13.1.1 Central Bedfordshire has a strong economy and has consistently delivered economic growth. Moving forward, it is expected that we will continue this strong economic performance reflecting national economic conditions. 

13.1.2 Central Bedfordshire Economic Insight (CBEI) identifies that there are 11,570 active enterprises within Central Bedfordshire and that in 2014 our five year survival rate for new businesses was higher than national, regional and SEMLEP rates.  We have a dynamic and diverse economy with key sector strengths in High Performance Technology, Research and Development; Transport and Logistics, the Visitor Economy and Agriculture and Food.  Our strategic location and excellent transport links as well as our high quality natural and historic environment support a growing economy.

13.1.3 The area is home to world leading companies such as B/E Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, Nissan Technical Centre Europe, Amazon, Whitbread, Superdrug and The Jordan and Ryvita Company. The largest employer in the area is Central Bedfordshire Council, when taking into account all education/school based employment. Other large employers in the area include Cranfield University, Millbrook Proving Ground, Woburn Enterprises, Kier and the RSPB. There are also a number of smaller businesses within Central Bedfordshire which make a significant contribution to the local economy.

13.1.4 Tourism is an important, rapidly growing sector and job creator within Central Bedfordshire and attractions such as the Woburn Estate, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, Centre Parcs, Wrest Park and the Shuttleworth Collection contribute significantly to the local economy.

13.1.5 The Council is fully supportive of the movement towards a low carbon economy and there are a number of businesses which have a vested interest or operate within the green economy. In our area the Green Economy is diverse, and the Council will continue to support the creation of opportunities for the development of new technologies, industries and services and will seek to support business growth in the low carbon economy.

13.1.6 Central Bedfordshire benefits significantly from good transportation access. The M1 and the A1 corridors run north to south through Central Bedfordshire, which provide businesses with direct access to London and the strategic road network whilst the A5, A6, A507 and the A421 create a robust internal transportation network providing local residents with access to employment opportunities across the whole area.  Accessibility will be further enhanced following the delivery of major infrastructure projects including the A5-M1 link road, A421 improvements, M1-A6 link road, A1 Improvements and the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway.

13.1.7 In order for Central Bedfordshire to achieve its economic potential, the Council is taking a positive enabling approach to creating the right conditions for our existing businesses to flourish and to attract new inward investment that supports and enhances the existing employment offer within Central Bedfordshire. The overall aim being to create a place of national and international significance where people choose to live, work and visit, and where companies choose to invest.

13.1.8 The Council has identified a number of priority sectors.  These are ,

  • High Performance Technologies, Research & Development (R&D)
  • Agri-Food
  • Visitor Economy
  • Transport and Logistics

13.1.9 The Council will be supportive of growth proposals within these sectors and will monitor and review progress throughout the plan period through the Annual Monitoring Report.

13.1.10 The Central Bedfordshire Functional Economic Market Areas (FEMA) and Employment Land Review (ELR) (May 2016) identifies that, based on past trends; a minimum of 23,900 jobs might be expected within the area up to 2031. This is based upon the Experian economic forecast which estimates future trends based upon past information. However, there are a range of economic forecasts that could be considered, and the forecasts produced can be volatile. There are a number of local "real-world" factors that also need to be considered that suggests a higher jobs target is achievable than that suggested through economic modelling. These factors include our historic annual delivery of 2,180 jobs per annum (2010-2015) and our aspiration to realise fully the area's economic potential.

13.1.11 As the FEMA for Central Bedfordshire is complex and overlaps with neighbouring authorities, we also need to consider any unmet economic needs arising from neighbouring authorities, and in line with the NPPF and the Duty to Cooperate, the Council has sought to ensure that economic growth within Central Bedfordshire is complementary to that in neighbouring areas. To this end, Central Bedfordshire has committed to helping meet the unmet economic needs arising from Stevenage.

13.1.12 Paragraph 160 of the NPPF also highlights the benefits of councils working closely with Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) particularly in relation to prioritising infrastructure investment, for example, through the Local Growth Fund. The South East Midlands Local Economic Partnership (SEMLEP) Strategic Economic Plan (2014) highlights the aspiration to support the delivery of 111,200 jobs within the region up to 2020 of which Central Bedfordshire would make a significant contribution.

13.1.13 Whilst the ELR identifies a minimum of 23,900 net new jobs up to 2035, wider economic conditions and historical performance indicates jobs growth could exceed this target. The Council will therefore support growth within our key sectors, ensuring that local and national business needs are catered for. This will be achieved through a series of enabling and positive policies, reflective of market demand balanced against sustainability. The ambition to deliver sustainable growth is essential, and without this minimal level of job creation the longer term economic future of the area could be significantly hindered.

13.1.14 Our approach to greater economic growth across Central Bedfordshire is further supported by the National Infrastructure Commission report (November 2016) which stated that new east-west transport links present a once in a generation opportunity to secure the area's future success, and that to succeed in the global economy, the UK must build on its strengths. The corridor connecting Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford, which crosses through the north of Central Bedfordshire, could be Britain's Silicon Valley – a globally recognised centre for science, technology and innovation.

View Comments (3) (3) 13.2 Portfolio of Employment Land

13.2.1 In order to ensure the delivery of sustainable development, jobs should be provided where market demand has been identified, with a specific consideration of meeting local business needs, supporting a diverse range of employment opportunities for Central Bedfordshire residents. Employment generating uses will therefore be delivered through the extensive portfolio of employment land across Central Bedfordshire, which consists of :

  • existing permitted land;
  • allocated employment land (as identified on the Policies Map);
  • key employment sites (as identified on the Policies Map);
  • established (non-key) sites in employment use;
  • existing Significant Facilities as identified in Policy EMP6;
  • allocations to meet national strategic warehousing and distribution needs; and
  • mixed use allocations to meet identified local needs.

13.2.2 This approach will deliver sustainable patterns of development and will be attractive and responsive to market demand over the plan period, as well as seeking to balance labour supply and demand.

13.2.3 If market demand for B-uses exceeds supply, the Council will consider the potential benefits in terms of job creation and local need of bringing forward the delivery of further employment land. Additional locations for the delivery of employment generating uses will be considered where it is appropriate to do so.

View Comments (3) (3) 13.3 B-Uses and Non B-Uses

13.3.1 Employment uses are classified as either B or non B-uses as set out within the Use Classes Order.  When allocating land for the delivery of employment generating uses, local plans typically identify sufficient land to accommodate the B-Use element which includes offices, industrial and warehousing/distribution.  Non B-Uses, such as retail, leisure and public services are much more subject to market demand and tend to grow in line with population growth. However, the Council recognises that B and non-B employment generating uses can also be complementary and that there may be opportunities to consider their co-location where appropriate.

13.3.2 Within Central Bedfordshire it is anticipated that a minimum of 11,200 (47%) new jobs will be from B-Uses and approximately 12,700 (53%) will be delivered through non B-Uses. 

View Comments (6) (6) 13.4 Supply of Sites

13.4.1 Central Bedfordshire has a broad range and quality of existing employment sites and premises supporting business in a wide range of activities.  These sites in both urban and rural locations perform a crucial role in maintaining a steady level of employment land stock and contributing significantly to the local economy. The following map identifies the broad distribution of existing and established employment sites across Central Bedfordshire.

13.4.2 In order to continue to support the growth of the local economy, enable the growth of key employment sectors and create the right conditions for future investment, the employment land stock needs to be maintained and responsive to market demand.  Availability and choice in the range and size of land and premises across Central Bedfordshire will be required to enable new business start-ups, to meet local demand for existing businesses to grow, and to encourage new inward investment from national and international businesses.

13.4.3 The  2016 Functional Economic Market Assessment and Employment Land Review (ELR) Study identifies that in quantitative terms there is sufficient existing supply of land in Central Bedfordshire to satisfy demand, but that there is a short term need to provide both sites and premises to meet local business growth. Furthermore, due to Central Bedfordshire's strategic location and excellent transport connections, there is also a strong case for contributing to meet national demand for warehousing logistics sector operations at major strategic transport locations, specifically along the M1 corridor.


Figure 13.4 Distribution of Existing Key Employment Sites and allocations (including mixed-use)


13.4.4 Central Bedfordshire already has a number of existing and established employment areas which will continue to contribute to the local economy and job creation. However, in order to maintain a sustainable approach to the delivery of employment land and premises, be responsive to local market conditions and ensure a continued range of choice and quality employment sites across Central Bedfordshire, there is a need to provide additional and alternative land to accommodate employment generating uses. In line with guidance set out within the NPPF, it is also important that the local plan is responsive to market demand. To meet objectives of the plan, new employment land allocations will be delivered as part of mixed-use developments as well as stand alone employment sites, meeting both local and national need.

13.4.5 The 2016 ELR identifies that in the short term, Central Bedfordshire is undersupplied, and that whilst the pipeline of employment land is large, supply of market ready sites is limited.  Furthermore, the current identified oversupply, does not consider qualitative deficiency in the supply.

View Comments (13) (13) 13.5 Strategic Warehousing and Logistics

13.5.1 Growth in the logistics and distribution sector (recognised as one of the key growth sectors by the Council) and an increased focus on larger strategic warehousing facilities now means that locations with good accessibility to the motorway network, airports and freight hubs, including rail, have become a key focus for operators and developers. Market analysis undertaken as part of the 2016 ELR shows that demand for space is likely to originate from outside Central Bedfordshire and the FEMA, and as strategic warehousing is highly footloose, it is attracted to the area due to the key strategic connectivity, particularly the M1 corridor. The provision of land for strategic uses within Central Bedfordshire is therefore likely to attract national footloose demand.

13.5.2 The ELR also identifies that should the strategic warehouse sector be constrained within Central Bedfordshire, by only providing sufficient land only to meet the job forecast, the evidence suggests that logistics will continue to displace local demand on other sites. Strategic logistics demand will still be attracted to the Central Bedfordshire portfolio and local demand will remain unsatisfied.

13.5.3 For market reasons there are therefore strong grounds to provide additional strategic B8 land within Central Bedfordshire. By providing additional land for logistics compared to the forecasts, and providing specific allocations for strategic distribution and warehousing, it will have the effect of enabling Central Bedfordshire to be responsive to market demands whilst also retaining existing sites for local industrial employment uses.

13.5.4 In order to allow for market friction, choice and the natural turn-over of premises (churn), as well as for windfall losses, the 2016 ELR identifies that within Central Bedfordshire, a surplus pipeline of 20% of the built stock should be maintained throughout the plan period.

13.5.5 Further additional allocations will also be considered favourably to maximise the economic impact of key infrastructure proposals including East West Rail and A1 Corridor improvements.

View Comments (11) (11) Policy EMP1: Strategic Warehousing and Logistics

In order to ensure a continued supply of land appropriate for strategic warehousing and logistics, the Council will consider further employment proposals within Central Bedfordshire where:

• Development would not be in the Green Belt;

• The allocations identified within Policy SP1 are built and occupied;

• There is a demonstrable demand and need at the proposed location;

• Delivery of additional strategic warehousing and logistics facilities will not result in an over concentration in the market or the proposed location;

• The proposal is adjacent to the strategic transportation network by road or rail; and

• The proposed development is accessible by sustainable modes of transport.

Appropriate detailed evidence should accompany any future proposals across Central Bedfordshire in relation to the above criteria. 

View Comments (15) (15) 13.6 Employment Sites and Uses

13.6.1 Overall Central Bedfordshire has a broad employment offer.  In order to maintain and expand this diversity, support existing business growth and to attract inward investment of both large and small businesses, the Council has adopted a flexible approach to employment provision.

13.6.2 So as to maintain a diverse portfolio of employment sites for B1 to B8 uses, in relation to the above identified portfolio of land, permission will generally be granted for B Class uses. Through the portfolio of employment sites, the Council will seek to ensure a mix of tenure, type and size of premises to support business and jobs growth, including the provision of freehold sites offered to occupiers addressing the findings of the ELR. The Council will also seek to ensure that appropriate steps are taken to enable the sites to come forward to attract appropriate interest from developers and occupiers. This may include, but is not limited to; servicing, provision of access, marketing and other such steps as required in order to bring forward or accelerate development.

13.6.3 Whilst the Council would not wish to see substantial amounts of employment land lost to other uses, it is recognised that non B-uses can make a significant contribution to the local economy and job creation, and that some non B-uses can complement and enhance B-uses.  Consideration will be given to non B-use employment generating proposals on allocated and key employment land against a series of criteria which seek to ascertain that such proposals are suitable for the proposed location and will not detrimentally impact upon the delivery of B-uses or the quantity of land available to deliver B-uses. Although the clear economic benefits of residential development are recognised, it does not qualify as an employment generating use for the purposes of Policy EMP2.

13.6.4 In instances where allocated or key employment land is no longer suitable for employment generating uses, detailed evidence must be provided to demonstrate that the site has been effectively marketed for these uses and that no suitable interest has subsequently materialised. For existing and non-key employment sites, evidence will be sought to ensure that redevelopment for B or non-B employment uses is not viable. In these cases the loss of employment land to a non-employment generating use may therefore be the only reasonable option.

13.6.5 Central Bedfordshire has a number of town centres which play a vital role in contributing to the local economy. In order to support the role and function of the town centres, the Council would not generally wish to see inappropriate retail uses located on key employment sites or on land allocated for employment generating activities. However, the Council acknowledges that some retail uses such as 'bulky goods' provision may be more suited to out of centre locations and will need to be assessed on a site by site basis to ensure that any such provision will not detrimentally impact upon the town centres. Section 15 provides greater detail in relation to the appropriate location of retail uses within Central Bedfordshire and specifically the town centres.

13.6.6 In line with the Council's growth and enabling aspirations, the Council will seek to consider emerging opportunities and mechanisms to stimulate and support sustainable development, where it can be evidenced that such activities are necessary and would bring forward jobs growth that would not otherwise have happened. The types of activity the Council will consider include, Local Development Orders (LDO), masterplans, planning and development briefs and innovative financing mechanisms to bring forward development. LDO's have already been progressed for the Woodside Industrial Estate, Dunstable and for the Stratton Business Park, Biggleswade (as part of the food enterprise zone) and others will be put forward as appropriate. Their purpose is to make it easier for businesses to grow and expand by relaxing some planning restrictions so that specified works can be undertaken without the need to apply for planning permission. The overall aim is to help businesses to save time and money; thus placing them in a better position to respond quickly to opportunities and contribute towards the economic health of the area.

View Comments (14) (14) Policy EMP2: Employment Sites and Uses

Across the portfolio of employment land within Central Bedfordshire, planning permission will be granted for appropriate B1, B2 and B8 uses. In order to provide flexibility, choice and the delivery of a range of employment uses, changes of use for other employment generating uses will be supported in principle where all of the following criteria are met:

  • The application provides sufficient evidence to demonstrate that there is no need for the premises to remain as a B1, B2 or B8 use;
  • the proposal would not unacceptably reduce the supply, variety or quality of available industrial and commercial land and property within the surrounding area;
  • the proposal would contribute towards meeting the employment needs of the district, or widening the range of employment opportunities;
  • the proposal would be suitable in relation to the location and neighbouring land uses;
  • the location is appropriately accessible and the proposal would not result in unacceptable levels of traffic generation

For the purposes of bullet point 1, evidence of active marketing must be provided.

Opportunities to strengthen existing clusters through the delivery of complementary employment generating uses will be encouraged.

To support the role and function of the town centres, A1 retail uses will not be considered appropriate on employment sites, except as an ancillary operation.  Exceptions will be considered on a site by site basis for specialist retailing less suited to a town centre location and will be subject to the separate retail policies set out in this Plan.

View Comments (4) (4) Policy EMP3: Change of Use to Non-Employment Generating Uses

Other than where permitted development allows, proposals for non-employment generating uses on identified employment land will only be considered where suitable and detailed evidence is submitted demonstrating that the following criteria can be met:

In relation to non-key sites:

  • the site is not currently utilised for employment generating uses;
  • there is no reasonable or viable prospect of the site delivering an employment generating use;
  • a change of use will not detrimentally impact upon the deliverability of B1, B2 and B8 uses within the locality; and
  • the proposed use would not detrimentally impact upon existing or surrounding land uses.

In relation to allocated employment land and key sites, in addition to the above:

  • the site has been comprehensively marketed for at least 12 months for the current employment generating uses as well as for alternative employment generating uses;
  • there is a local need for the proposed intended use; and

there are no strong economic reasons why the proposed intended use would be inappropriate.

View Comments (4) (4) 13.7 Employment proposals outside of Settlement Envelopes

13.7.1 Central Bedfordshire has a diverse portfolio of employment land which offers a variety in size, type and location of land and premises.  Whilst the Council has sought to ensure the range of employment land within Central Bedfordshire is significantly comprehensive to meet the needs of current and future employers, there may be instances where the portfolio of sites does not meet the needs of a specific proposed employment use.

13.7.2 In order to promote Central Bedfordshire as a great location for business and to ensure a variety of employment generating uses, the Council will, exceptionally, consider proposals for employment uses outside Settlement Envelopes to meet identified local need or to support growth in the Council's key employment sectors, where it is evidenced that there are no suitable alternative sites. 

Expansion of Existing Businesses

13.7.3 The Council values existing businesses within Central Bedfordshire and supports proposals for expansion which will contribute positively to the local economy and provide new jobs within the area. The portfolio of employment sites within Central Bedfordshire provides a variety of options for existing businesses to relocate to in order to expand.

13.7.4 In some instances, existing businesses may wish to expand either within their existing curtilage or onto land adjacent to their current site rather than relocate to a new location. In some instances, this may necessitate expansion outside of settlement envelopes in to the countryside.   In order to secure the retention and growth of existing businesses, the Council has adopted a flexible approach to business expansion within Central Bedfordshire. Policy EMP4 applies only to sites that are outside of the Green Belt.

View Comments (4) (4) Policy EMP4: Employment proposals adjacent to Settlement Envelopes

Development for employment generating uses will be supported in principle where they are beyond but adjacent to the Settlement Envelopes where;

  • The site is not in the Green Belt:
  • there are no existing or allocated sites, or existing buildings within the locality that are available, suitable, achievable or viable;
  • For proposals to extend existing businesses onto adjoining land, evidence will need to be provided that intensification within the existing site is not possible;
  • For proposals for new employment generating uses outside Settlement Envelopes, evidence will need to be provided of the significant economic benefits that would flow from the proposal taking account of the environmental and social aspects;
  • The scale of the development proposed is appropriate to its location.

In all cases the criteria set out in Policy EMP2 will also be relevant considerations and proposals should be in accordance with other relevant policies set out within the plan.

View Comments (6) (6) 13.8 Education and Skills

13.8.1 Central Bedfordshire is home to leading higher and further education institutions, including Cranfield University, Central Bedfordshire College and Shuttleworth College (part of Bedford College).  We recognise that for Central Bedfordshire to fulfil its economic potential, the importance of skills cannot be over-stated. Skills are critical to all employees and employers in all sectors: public, private and the voluntary and community sectors. The Council will seek to support the continued delivery of high quality learning and education within Central Bedfordshire, and will seek to support the development of learning and higher education facilities.

13.8.2 The importance of training and apprenticeships and the contribution these can make not only to the local economy but also in relation to getting people into work and providing them with useable skills is also recognised. The Council actively encourages the provision of school engagement and training and apprenticeship opportunities at all levels on development sites throughout Central Bedfordshire, and will seek to work with developers, education institutions and others to ensure this aspiration is realised.

13.8.3 The Council will continue to support its residents to prosper, helping all to realise their potential and ensuring that our more vulnerable residents are supported on their pathway into employment. This approach is also in accordance with the Central Bedfordshire All Age Skills Strategy (2016-2020) to deliver a flexible and mobile workforce that meets the needs of employers, is able to respond rapidly to economic shifts and will enable Central Bedfordshire to achieve its full economic potential.

View Comments (6) (6) 13.9 Rural and Visitor Economy

13.9.1 The 2011 Census has identified that 38.8% of all people employed in Central Bedfordshire are employed in rural areas. This compares to 17.5% nationally, showing the importance of the rural economy to Central Bedfordshire.  In view of this, the Council supports in principle the diversification of agricultural and other land based rural businesses and the development of any related new or converted buildings, providing that they are appropriately designed.

13.9.2 Central Bedfordshire's attractive natural and historic environment is identified as one of the best aspects of the area by local businesses in the Central Bedfordshire Business Survey 2015.

13.9.3 The visitor economy has 730 businesses in Central Bedfordshire, employing just over 10,200 people in 2015.  Tourist attractions range from major facilities such as Centre Parcs, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo and Woburn Safari Park to a raft of historic towns and villages, country houses, outdoor attractions and activities for people of all ages.  The Council recognises that the visitor economy is a key growth sector and positive policies will help to ensure this opportunity can be taken further, although considerations such as the impact on landscape and the rural road network will continue to be taken into account.

13.9.4 The need to increase hotel provision, self-catering accommodation, conferencing facilities, the provision of low-cost accommodation and increasing the range and choice of food and drink establishments is supported in order to support the growth of this key sector. The Council is willing to be flexible where these can support local services and provide opportunities for rural diversification.

13.9.5 The re-use and adaptation of rural buildings can make a significant contribution to the local economy. Proposals for employment generating uses and tourism activities will therefore need to mindful of the benefits that existing buildings can deliver.

View Comments (4) (4) Policy EMP5: Rural and Visitor Economy

The contribution of the rural area and tourism to the wider economy will be supported and proposals for employment generating uses within the rural area and those related to the visitor economy will be considered in relation to:

  • the suitability and impact of the proposal in relation to the location and neighbouring land uses;
  • an increase in the number of jobs that can be delivered; and
  • the impact upon traffic generation, suitable accessibility and sustainable forms of transport.

The Council will seek to promote the rural area and visitor economy across the whole of Central Bedfordshire by supporting proposals for tourist and leisure developments, particularly those which will also provide opportunities for rural diversification and which are well located to support local services, businesses and other tourist and leisure attractions.

Proposals located within the Green Belt will only be considered where exceptional circumstances are identified and where the need for the proposal outweighs any demonstrable harm to the Green Belt.                               

Proposals for static holiday and touring caravan parks and holiday chalet developments will be considered against the need to protect valuable landscapes and environmentally sensitive sites as well as the potential impact on local residents.

The Council will seek to retain existing public houses in order to encourage diverse employment opportunities, provide tourist accommodation and in recognition of the contribution such uses make, particularly to the rural economy

View Comments (7) (7) 13.10 Significant Facilities in the Countryside and Green Belt

13.10.1 Central Bedfordshire is notable for the presence of a number of significant employment facilities in the countryside and Green Belt. These sites have the potential to provide additional jobs, which would help to meet the employment objectives and aspirations of the Plan. These facilities have been identified as Cranfield University and Technology Park, Shuttleworth College, Millbrook Proving Ground, RSPB, DISC Chicksands, ZSL Whipsnade, Woburn Safari Park, Center Parcs, Toddington Motorway Services Area, Faldo Road Industrial Estate in Barton-le-Clay, Kier at Tempsford and Lockheed Martin, Ampthill.  

13.10.2 It is clear that these major sites can make a significant contribution to the local economy and that a number of these also have the potential to attract high technology orientated businesses, creating specialist markets and a cluster effect.

13.10.3 The NPPF is clear about the need to secure economic growth. It recognises that the challenges presented by a low carbon future can still be met while also delivering this core objective. In order to proactively plan for businesses in within the key growth sectors emerging sectors like the green economy, the Council supports the development of innovation, research and development industries, particularly around the existing cluster of high technology centres of excellence of Cranfield University and Technology Park and Millbrook Proving Ground.

13.10.4 In the future, major new sites may emerge in Central Bedfordshire which should also be included within the remit of this policy.

View Comments (1) (1) Policy EMP6 : Significant facilities in the Countryside and Green Belt

Planning permission will be granted for infilling at, or redevelopment of, significant facilities provided that the infilling or redevelopment is within the boundaries of the existing use, relates to that use and enhances the contribution to the local or national economy.

Significant expansion of sites into the open countryside will be subject to the production of a management plan, development brief or masterplan prior to any application.

All proposals for significant development at these facilities will be assessed against their:

  • impact on the open countryside and any heritage assets;
  • provision of sustainable transport;
  • justification;
  • scale, layout and design – which must be appropriate to the establishment and its setting.
  • compatibility with Green Belt policy

Planning applications that are considered acceptable against these criteria and all other relevant plan policies, will be considered favourably. Further major facilities that may be developed with a similar level of importance in terms of employment or research will be considered under this policy.

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