Convenience store viability questioned in opposition to housing scheme

A development brief dating from 2009 which supported the provision of a neighbourhood centre including a convenience store on a vacant site in Kent, was held to be no longer realistic since such provision was likely to be unviable.

The appellant proposed to erect up to 33 dwellings on the site which in a new local plan was unallocated but lying within an urban area. The council asserted however that the development brief carried weight and the appellant had failed to demonstrate that a convenience shop was not commercially viable.

Various factors impinged on the potential viability of a convenience store an inspector held. This included the potential residential catchment area, expenditure on convenience goods and competition. Taking these into account and the fact that the settlement already benefited from an existing shop, the Inspector held that when taken in combination with the absence of any market interest from potential operators, the council’s aspirations for the site were unrealistic. Detailed permission had been granted in 2007 for a neighbourhood centre on the site and no development had materialised. While the local community might desire to have more facilities, it had to be viable to succeed.

Despite the council withdrawing its objection to the appeal after proofs of evidence had been exchanged, the Inspector decided that no costs should be awarded. The appellant had provided limited information on the lack of demand from convenience goods retailers and it was not until proofs were exchanged that the full picture emerged. The council’s concern up until that point had therefore been substantiated.

Inspector: Helen Hockenhull; Inquiry

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