The scheme involved two shop units, with the larger unit extending to 280m2 and occupied by a convenience store. The latter extended to 212m2 and the appellant was prepared to accept a condition limiting the sales to non-food items only. The council claimed that no end users for the shop units had been identified and in the event that a comparison goods operator was to trade from the site, a wider catchment area should be adopted to assess if any sequentially preferable sites existed. It was also concerned about the potential to divert investment from a local centre in the event that a convenience store was to occupy the larger unit.
The site lay in an out of centre location, the inspector determined, being approximately 750 metres from the edge of a local centre. The latter contained a range of small retail units including a Co-op convenience store. One shop unit was vacant and in the inspector’s opinion the appellant had not demonstrated why it was unsuitable to meet the needs of the type of retailers proposed at the appeal site. She concluded that allowing the scheme would divert investment and trade away from the centre thereby undermining its vitality and viability.
The ability to re-use floorspace which had been vacant for over two years and create 20 full-time jobs did not outweigh this harm, particularly since no tenants had confirmed occupation of the two units. In so finding the inspector accepted that it would not lead to an increase in crime or anti-social behaviour nor adversely affect the character of the area as a consequence of removing part of a hedgerow along the frontage to improve access and egress.
Inspector Christine Newmarch; Hearing