Insufficient evidence to conclude no need for vacant community facility

A retail use from a former private member's club in a Hampshire town was refused for loss of a community facility contrary to adopted local plan policy. Awards of costs in favour of both the council and the appellant were both refused with no unreasonable behaviour found from either party.

The inspector held that whilst the club was formerly used as a private member’s club, it still had a community use and could be taken on by any club and potentially meet the needs of the local community. Its change of use to retail would result in the loss of that community use, contrary to the adopted local plan policy unless it could be shown the use was no longer needed through a marketing exercise.

The appellant had submitted a marketing report showing the property had been advertised since August 2017, with one person interested in the property, but which did not lead to a lease agreement. However, the inspector held the report lacked information on the rental cost of the property as advertised and did not fully explain why the interest in using the building as a social club did not lead to a successful agreement. He found there was insufficient evidence to conclude that there was no need for the community facility. This concern was sufficient to dismiss the appeal. 

Inspector: Steven Rennie; Written representations

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