DC Casebook: Housing: Conversion - Policy reliance faulted in cost award case

The residential conversion of a former shop in Suffolk has been allowed with full costs to the appellant after the council's reliance on two local plan policies was judged to be inappropriate.

The property had been used as a shop until 1998 before falling vacant for several years and a subsequent office use ceased last year. The council claimed that the appeal scheme would lead to the loss of employment floor space and a village facility. It alleged that the office use had perpetuated commercial use of the building in planning terms.

The inspector found this objection flawed. The office use had no planning permission and had therefore been unlawful, he explained. The council's legal officer had concluded that the retail use had been abandoned so the building had no authorised use, he held. Consequently, he held that its conversion could not lead to the loss of employment floor space or of a village facility.

In his opinion, the council had failed to explain why the local plan policies were relevant. The appellant had questioned their relevance before the application was determined but the council had based its case on the erroneous assumption that the office use was lawful, he found. In such circumstances, he decided that its decision was perverse and unreasonable. The appellant had been put to unnecessary expense in pursing the appeal and this justified a full award of costs, he held.

DCS Number 100-068-983

Inspector Tony Davison; Written representations.

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