Residential-led scheme not optimum use of employment land

A part office part residential mixed-use building to replace a commercial vehicles sales use at the edge of an industrial estate in Hertfordshire was refused for not representing the optimum use of the site, as well as harm to the character and appearance of the area and the living conditions of proposed occupiers. Two offices and six flats were proposed, the latter having three times the floor space of the former.

The appeal site lay within a designated employment area in the local plan and non-employment uses in such areas were restricted to be ancillary and "of a scale and nature to complement the uses". The inspector noted the council’s economic growth strategy highlighted that the area appeared to have insufficient employment floorspace to meet future needs; a factor to which he attached significant weight. Given the proposal had three times the floorspace devoted to housing than offices, the council had argued the residential-led proposal failed to take the opportunity to deliver a higher amount of employment floorspace given relevant policy considerations. However, the appellant argued the council could not show a five-year supply of housing land and paragraph 11 of the NPPF therefore applied.

The inspector noted the appellant's arguments regarding the viability of employment use at the site but held these had not been substantiated. In conclusion, he was not persuaded that housing need could not be adequately met elsewhere. Even if there were a shortfall in housing land supply on the scale suggested by the appellant, the inspector concluded the adverse impacts of granting permission would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits and therefore paragraph 11 of the NPPF did not apply. 

Inspector: Rory MacLeod; Written representations

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