Place of worship from employment use refused for insufficient marketing

A place of worship with associated offices and training facilities at a former office/warehouse in a district centre in South-east London was refused for the unjustified loss of an employment use in conflict with adopted local plan policies.

The site was located at the rear of a row of retail units and its current lawful use as accepted by the inspector because of an enforcement appeal in 2011, was for offices and warehousing. But the building was currently being used as a place of worship for a number of different churches and the appellant argued this had been the case for at least 10 years.

The council’s adopted policies required existing employment sites to be marketed on fair price terms for at least two years for alternative uses to be permitted. The appellant had provided evidence that the building was marketed in 2001-2006 as an office space and conference hall but there was no evidence, according to the inspector, that this had been done at a fair price. The inspector held this was insufficient to demonstrate that any employment use of the building would only be viable within a mixed-use scheme such as that proposed. He also held it was not substantiated how many jobs would be created by the current proposals to justify the mixed-use.

Despite previous noise complaints associated with the use of the building as a place of worship, the inspector did not feel noise would harmfully affect the living conditions of adjoining occupiers given the commercial context of the area, limited parking opportunities and the option of using conditions to control hours of use.

Inspector: Alex Hutson; Written representations

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