Office to residential prior approval fallback attracts limited weight

A proposal to redevelop offices with eight new build flats in a Berkshire town failed when an inspector decided a fallback of prior approval for conversion of the existing building did not justify a less harmful scheme.

The council objected to the loss of Class B1 employment space, contrary to policy and adding to an existing deficit. The inspector, in the light of insufficient evidence of a lack of demand for a business use of the premises or that they would remain empty if marketed again for this purpose, agreed that residential redevelopment of the site would be contrary to core strategy.  He also found the scheme would provide poor amenity for both occupiers and neighbours due to overlooking and loss of privacy.

With an extant prior approval in place for the change of use of building to eight dwellings, the inspector acknowledged that, in principle, the existing commercial floor space could be lost by implementing permitted development rights. In determining the weight to be attached to this fallback position, he noted deficiencies in the existing building in terms of the quality and attractiveness of the accommodation which could be provided and this cast doubt that the fallback scheme would be implemented even if the appeal failed. Improvements in the appearance of the building would be of limited benefit to street scene due to the backland position of the site, and there was no evidence the existing office use caused harm to neighbours in the surrounding residential area. The inspector concluded that the benefits of the scheme for boosting market and affordable housing supply and the fallback considerations did not outweigh harm to employment and residential amenity and dismissed the appeal.

Inspector: Richard Jones; Written representations


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