The council accepted the principle of residential use of the site. The inspector agreed that the proposals would bring an unsightly vacant plot into use and provide much needed housing. However, she considered that both schemes could be reconfigured to address issues over external amenity space and impact on the area’s character and appearance, while still providing significant economic and social benefits.
She found the layout of both schemes flawed in terms of amenity space. On the first scheme, she was concerned that noise levels on some of balconies of flats facing a busy Royal Mail building would be unacceptable because of traffic movements to and from the business. Possible noise complaints could ultimately prove detrimental to business operation, she reasoned.
On the second scheme, she found that a lack of private amenity space in a small number of apartments, coupled with their separation from communal amenity spaces, would result in unsatisfactory living conditions for future occupants, particularly children. Both concerns were supported by local plan policies requiring usable levels of amenity space for people of all ages, she remarked.
The inspector also voiced concerns over the height, massing and siting of some of the apartment blocks and the fragmented arrangement of amenity space. In her view, the need to provide sufficient car parking in an area with poor public transport provision meant the scheme would be primarily focused on the needs of vehicles, rather than being attractive to move around on foot. The environmental and social drawbacks of both schemes outweighed the benefits of the new homes, she concluded.
Inspector: Sheila Holden; Hearing