The units consisted of communal spaces shared for a range of work, mainly involving creative industries such as music, painting, sculpture, textile and garment design and manufacture, dance and circus skills, film production and web graphics. They appealed to people requiring flexible workspace and allowed relatively cheap residential accommodation to be linked to the communal area.
The inspector first assessed whether the alleged breach of planning control was accurately described in the notices. Some residents had full-time occupations elsewhere but fed off the activities of the other residents, he noted. After concluding that the combination of uses did not fall neatly into any planning category, he ruled that the breach of control should be changed to refer to communal live-work accommodation.
As the premises fell within a locally significant industrial site, where the council sought to minimise the need to travel and support local employment and regeneration, the inspector went on to consider whether the units met the needs of modern-day industry. The appellant had provided information on the difficulty of letting the units and their current occupation had generated a higher level of employment than when they were used for their lawful purpose, he observed.
The council had included the site within an area suitable for redevelopment, including provision of some 1,000 homes and 134,000 square metres of commercial floorspace. In the inspector's opinion, the site lay in a sustainable location and supported local employment, albeit with a residential element attached. The National Planning Policy Framework encourages flexible working practices and integration of residential and commercial uses, he noted. Given the emerging site allocation, he held that the mixed live-work use deserved support.
Inspector: John Murray; Hearing