The council had adopted local plan policies which restricted the number of non-retail uses in the primary shopping frontage and the overconcentration of hot food takeaways on town centre vitality and health and safety grounds. But in allowing the appeal, the inspector criticised the lack of supporting data and definitions behind these policies.
The proposal would take the number of non-retail units above the 35 per cent level referred to in the relevant policy. However, the inspector referred to the supporting text to the policy which did allow for some flexibility where vitality and viability could be enhanced. In this case, he noted the shop had been vacant for more than 12 months and marketed but with limited interest. He also noted the adjoining premises to the appeal site were both retail shops and the proposal would provide an active frontage for part of the day. On this basis, the inspector concluded there would be no harm to the vitality and viability of the centre from an extra non-retail unit. In relation to the council’s policy on hot food takeaways, this aimed to avoid over concentration or excessive clustering with regard to existing numbers of such premises. The council argued there were 11 hot food takeaways within 200 metres of the proposal, but the appellant argued only 4 of 77 units in the centre in their survey were lawfully in such use. The inspector found the data provided by both parties insufficient to rely on and noted he had no definition of the terms over-concentration or excessive clustering referred to in the policy. Again, he concluded no harm arising from an extra hot food takeaway use. Lastly, the inspector referred to the limited information received to evidence any effects from the proposal on health and community safety and found no policy conflict in this respect.
Inspector: L Perkins; Written representations