The appeal site was a ground-floor commercial unit in a mixed development, with other commercial uses on the ground floor and flats above. The council-owned unit had last been used as a doctors’ surgery in 2017 but had remained vacant since then. The inspector was concerned that neither party had submitted any substantive evidence on need for or current provision of surgeries in the area. In his view, the council had not demonstrated that the proposal would create or add to a shortfall in surgery provision, the test set in adopted local plan policies to protect local services.
In finding that the proposal would not result in a shortfall in this type of facility and that there was no other alternative community use potential for the unit, the inspector noted that other surgeries existed nearby, the appeal property had been vacant for several years and neither party had identified any other social infrastructure or community facilities for which there was a defined need in the area.
In addition, he noted that the proposed office user was a company providing home-based care for elderly people and people with disabilities. As the local plan did not specifically define what comprises a “community facility” and the relevant policy wording did not preclude community care provision, he concluded that the proposed change of use complied with local plan policy overall.
Inspector: John Dowsett; Written representations