Residential blocks inappropriately large compared with permitted commercial floorspace

The construction of 25 dwellings as a substitute for three commercial blocks permitted in west Sussex would be inappropriate, an inspector ruling that the mass and scale would harm the character and appearance of the area.

In 2010 the council had granted permission for a mixed residential and commercial development involving 86 dwellings and 4 commercial blocks comprising 2,500m2 of Class B1 floorspace. A condition stated that no more than 43 dwellings should be occupied until 25 per cent of the commercial space had been delivered to shell. The remainder had to be delivered before 78 dwellings had been built. One commercial block had been constructed by the appellant who stated that marketing demonstrated that there was little demand for constructing the three remaining blocks, and proposed housing as an alternative.

The inspector reviewed the marketing which had occurred since 2011 and agreed with the council that it did contain some errors and inaccuracies. The particulars also lacked a great amount of detail but prospective purchasers or tenants would have been able to see the first block which, while only built to shell finish, was sufficient to provide an indication of the quality of the scheme. Completing the rest of the development on a speculative basis would not be viable and there was nothing in the planning permission or a legal agreement which stated that the permitted housing should be used to cross-subsidise rents. The appellant, he noted, had also built more than 78 dwellings but the council had not taken any enforcement action. In his opinion the provision of one block was sufficient to support the centre’s role as a service village and there was no requirement or need to complete the remaining space.

However, the inspector was not convinced that the use of the existing permission for the commercial buildings should be used as a basis for designing the additional residential units. The scale and form of the consented buildings were a function of their commercial use and the design reflected their purpose. Surrounding residential properties were between two and three storeys in height, integrated with existing development and dispersed. The resultant density would be almost double that found in the immediate area and gave an indication of the scale, form and height of the residential units which was also emphasised by a complex roof structure and plan form. Overall, they would not be compatible with the character of the area.

Inspector: Michael Boniface; Inquiry

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