The appeal site was identified as a protected employment site in the adopted local plan and an emerging plan sought a mix of employment and residential uses for the site. The inspector observed that housing and a park surrounded the site, making the industrial estate something of an anomaly. While she accepted the council’s evidence of a demand for employment floorspace in the borough, she did not consider the appeal site to be the best place, noting also little evidence of a demand for units on the estate or any commitment to a mixed use redevelopment. On this matter she concluded housing would be a good use of the tired, under-utilised industrial area and employment land supply would not be harmed.
A large upper floor of premises on the estate was in daily use as a prayer room serving the local Islamic community and the inspector had to consider whether the scheme would result in the loss of this community facility, in the light of national and local policies for their protection. The appellant had offered a unilateral undertaking to delay redevelopment of this unit for two years to allow a replacement prayer facility to be found, after which a contribution of £250,000 would be made to the council. However, after hearing evidence of difficulties with finding a suitable alternative, the inspector rejected this payment as not meeting the needs of the local community. Finding additional harm from the loss of protected trees to local area character, the inspector concluded overall that the benefits of market and affordable housing and her favourable finding in terms of loss of the employment site did not outweigh these matters and she dismissed the appeal.
Inspector: Gyllian Grindey; Hearing