Plant nursery mixed use ruled out on traffic grounds

Road safety concerns have led an inspector to uphold enforcement action against a mix of uses, including a seasonal Christmas event, at a plant nursery in the Essex countryside.

200-008-989 (Image Credit: Tendring DC)
200-008-989 (Image Credit: Tendring DC)

The 6.5-hectare appeal site, mainly covered in glasshouses, was in mixed horticultural, retail, leisure and cafe use. It included a permanent sales area of 4,366 square metres selling imported garden centre goods as well as plants grown at the nursery. It also hosted a "Winter Wonderland" event between October and January featuring an electric train, Santa’s grotto, animatronic Christmas displays, fairground rides and a 100-metre Dickens-themed shopping street.

The council and the appellants agreed that the whole site formed one planning unit with a primary horticultural use, but disputed whether the retail element was ancillary. The inspector decided that the appellants could not rely on the percentage sale of sundries being less than ten per cent to support their position that no material change of use had taken place.

Examining the two main tests for the materiality of a change of use, she found a change in the character of the use itself and a notable impact on neighbouring residents and a local turkey farmer from traffic generation and congestion on a shared access drive. In her view, what might have begun as ancillary plant sales had now morphed into a separate primary garden centre use that was not acceptable due to its traffic impact.

The inspector allowed a separate appeal on a proposal to improve access to the site, but did not consider that this enabled the mixed use to be retained. In her view, a Grampian condition requiring access improvements would fail PPG tests because there was no realistic prospect of the work taking place, since there was no evidence that the access drive’s owners would allow it and the appellants did not control other land offering an alternative route. Finding the issue of traffic creation and congestion unresolved and further policy conflict over the location of town centre uses, she dismissed the deemed application and upheld the enforcement notice.

Inspector: Diane Fleming; Hearing

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