Housing redevelopment of sui generis sorting office rejected

Plans failed for two wheelchair accessible bungalows and seven three-storey houses on the site of a former Royal Mail sorting office in a London borough when an inspector found the benefits of bringing a vacant site back into use and boosting housing supply too modest to outweigh harm to a conservation area and loss of protected employment floorspace.

The appeal site was surrounded by substantial Victorian townhouses and villas. In this area, the council’s conservation area design guide explained how, on account of the historic development of the borough, backland development was not uncommon within the prevailing pattern but sought to limit development in such locations to two storeys in height. The inspector judged the substantial increase in height and bulk created by the dwellings proposed would be visible from the street and appear unduly dominant and out of keeping with the conservation area. The inspector accepted that the sorting office did not contribute positively to the appearance of the area but found that no reason to justify any development in its place.

In addition, the inspector also found conflict with development plan policy requiring exceptional circumstances for allowing proposals resulting in a loss of business floorspace. The inspector agreed with the appellant that the site’s former use was sui generis and outwith UCO Class B but disagreed that this disapplied the policy, referring to the stated rationale behind it for the protection of employment floorspace. Finding marketing of the site inadequate, the inspector concluded that the proposal would result in an inappropriate loss of employment floorspace, in conflict with local policy and paragraph 80 of the NPPF.

Inspector: Thomas Bristow; Written representations


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