The council had recently adopted a local plan policy stating that uses other than retail warehousing would only be allowed at retail parks where their role, character and function would not be adversely affected. It argued that this policy allowed changes to non-retail warehousing uses in existing buildings but was not intended to apply to new buildings. But the inspector found nothing explicit in the policy itself or the supporting text to support this position. In his view, the proposal would fall within the meaning of the text and was therefore supported by the policy, subject to not adversely affecting the retail park.
In considering whether such effects would arise, the inspector found it reasonable to suppose that an additional food and drink option might draw additional customers and increase footfall in other units at the retail park. He also noted that the council had relaxed conditions attached to the original retail park permission to allow up to 30 per cent of floorspace for food retail use. In his view, this represented acceptance by the council that such alterations to the nature of uses at the site would not adversely affect its role, character and function.
Finding that the proposed use would not result in the loss of any retail warehousing space or impede or undermine the operation of any existing retail unit, he concluded that it would cause no harm in this regard. He judged that the cumulative increase in food and drink floorspace at the park from 3.5 to 4.7 per cent would be insignificant in the overall context.
Inspector: Kevin Savage; Hearing