Telephone centre conversion beneficial to character of locality

In rejecting a claim by a local authority near Peterborough that the conversion of a small telephone exchange in the countryside would lead to the creation of an isolated new dwelling, an inspector determined that there was scope to improve the character and appearance of the area.

The building's conversion would mean that the site took on a more domestic appearance, the inspector concluded, but its curtilage had become neglected with boundary fencing falling into disrepair. Thus its conversion would enhance its immediate setting in accordance with paragraph 55 of the NPPF. It was capable of conversion without significant alteration and a draft local plan policy requiring alternative non-residential uses to be considered did not accord with the NPPF. It lay close to a bus stop which provided access to regular services such that it occupied a reasonably sustainable location.

At around 30m2 in size it would provide compact accommodation and fell below the minimum of 37m2 for a one person dwelling set out in the government’s technical housing standards published in March 2015. A ministerial statement in March 2015 made clear that compliance with the 37m2 threshold should only be required where there was a current local plan policy and the council had no such policy, the inspector concluded. In her opinion it could provide a functional living space and the appeal was allowed.

Inspector: Karen Down; Written representations

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