Employment land defended for the long game

An inspector rejected an outline proposal for 150 new homes on land within a prime business park in Wales, giving full weight to a recently adopted local plan review continuing the allocation of the out-of-centre site for employment purposes, despite a shortfall in housing.

Local plan policy provided for alternative uses of employment land subject to specific criteria, in reflection of TAN 23 advice that with uncertainty over future economic conditions, plans should provide the flexibility to respond to changes in circumstance.

Measuring the appeal proposal against the policy criteria, the inspector found the land well located for business use, as reflected in high occupancy rates. She found no evidence that the costs of building on the sloping site would make offices unviable and unrealistic, and expressed concern that the proximity of the proposed housing could potentially limit interest in the wider business park, reduce a prestigious landscaped setting and affect the ability of existing businesses to expand.

The inspector also rejected the appellant’s case that there was no need to retain the land for employment use. Finding their claims of a surplus of employment land to be only theoretical due primarily to city centre developments and no evidence of a persistent oversupply, the inspector decided it prudent to look at land allocations in the long term over the full plan period and beyond potential short term market fluctuations. The weight she attached to a shortfall in housing land supply was tempered by allocated housing sites and policies supporting the delivery of affordable housing set out in a sound and recently adopted local plan, and she went on to dismiss the appeal.

Inspector: Joanne Burston; Hearing

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