One of the main issues in the appeal revolved around the loss of designated employment land to housing. The proposal involved the loss of one of three existing buildings at a site within the wider employment area. The loss of part of the site to housing was proposed as enabling development to allow for re-investment in the remaining employment site involving the upgrading of equipment and buildings.
The council’s policies required proposals for alternative uses to employment to demonstrate that there were no other suitable sites, the development would provide significant employment opportunities or other sustainability benefits for the community and that development would not adversely affect the range and choice of employment sites. In addition, they required evidence of marketing over a sustained period to demonstrate the land was no longer commercially viable.
The inspector accepted that there were no alternative sites in the appellant’s ownership which could provide the long-term investment needed to benefit the future of the company and that the proposed development would secure existing jobs at the site and allow for the potential of further jobs. She considered in this regard that the purpose of the policies was not only to protect the amount of employment land but also to assist strategic and local employers to secure their operational base and meet their business development needs for growth and expansion. The appeal scheme would achieve this objective, in her view. Importantly, the inspector noted the loss of the 4.3 hectares of land would not undermine the overall employment land requirements in the borough given the level of existing supply.
Whilst the inspector acknowledged that the appeal scheme would result in the loss of employment land and would fail to comply with all the criteria in the policies, particularly the marketing requirement, she concluded the housing and economic benefits of the scheme were sufficient material considerations to outweigh this policy conflict.
Inspector: Helen Hockenhull; Written representations