Precedent fear overruled on retail to café switch

Converting a West End travel agency to a bakery and café has not adversely affected the area's character and function, an inspector has decided.

The sui generis use had been established for four years and comprised 26.5 per cent bakery and 73.5 per cent dining use, with a 56-person seating area. It employed more than 30 staff. The local plan sought to protect class A1 retail uses at ground-floor level in the area and to avoid concentrations of three or more consecutive non-A1 uses, or any intensification of class A3 food and drink uses in the area generally.

While accepting that the use had resulted in the loss of a class A1 retail unit, the inspector found that it had not led to consecutive non-A1 units or intensification and detected no loss in the area’s character or vitality. In his view, the mixed use increased jobs and average spend and supported economic growth in accordance with the NPPF at least as much as an A1 use.

He concluded that this outweighed any contradiction with local plan policies on viability, despite a complete lack of evidence on this issue. He also held that the combined use would not set a precedent, given the precise details of the case. He quashed an enforcement notice and allowed the appeal, subject to conditions restricting numbers of seats and opening hours.

Inspector: Paul Freer; Written representations

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