The two parcels of cleared land making up the appeal site were situated in a major town centre designated as a regeneration and opportunity area, where plan policy encouraged development to optimise residential and non-residential output and densities. The sites formed part of a larger site for which outline permission for a high-density development had been issued in 2007. Two phases of the wider scheme had been completed, but that permission had now lapsed.
While not claiming the lapsed permission as a fallback, the appellants based their scheme on the scale of development sanctioned by it. On one parcel, they proposed a 27-storey building comprising 1,056 sqm of commercial floorspace at ground and first-floor levels and 206 flats above. On the other, they proposed three buildings of between nine and 16 storeys comprising 1,793 sqm of ground-floor commercial floorspace and 598 flats above. The scheme would deliver 186 affordable homes.
Describing the lapsed permission as a “terrible mistake”, the inspector referred to the increased national policy emphasis on good design and the emerging London Plan policy concept of good growth, informed from the start by design and heritage considerations. While agreeing that making efficient use of land was important, he found that material circumstances had changed.
The secretary of state agreed that, despite some positive design aspects in the scheme, the 27-storey tower would harm its surroundings and loom oppressively over a recently refurbished public square. The setting and significance of listed buildings and conservation areas would also be harmed, he held. Overall, he concluded that the benefits of new homes, affordable provision, 217 new jobs and public realm improvements were far outweighed by harm to the area’s character, heritage assets, living conditions for residents in single-aspect flats and loss of light to neighbours.
Inspector: Paul Griffiths; Inquiry