Vague marketing evidence prevents fitness studio use

A dance and fitness studio from an office use in an Essex settlement was refused for harm arising from the loss of the employment site in a protected employment area.

The appeal site was located in an employment policy area designated in the adopted local plan, the policies of which restricted uses in such locations to use classes B1, B2 and B8 only. Since the proposal was for a D2 use, specifically a dance and fitness studio, the inspector opined it would conflict with the policies of the adopted plan. Importantly, she noted that the council could also evidence that there was a shortfall in the supply of industrial and office space in the district.

Whilst the appellant had submitted evidence that several marketing campaigns and a rent reduction had not enticed new employment uses to the site and it had been vacant for many years, the inspector held there was insufficient detail submitted regarding the specific duration of the advertising and rental values asked for. She also acknowledged the poor location of the premises to the rear of another building, its lack of loading bay and its split level configuration inside, but held firm to her overall concern that it had not been satisfactorily demonstrated that there was no current or long-term demand for the retention of all or part of the site for employment use. Given the significant weight attached to the conflict with the development plan as a whole and loss of employment land, the inspector concluded the harm arising from the development would be of a greater magnitude than any possible benefits, such as those in relation to health and wellbeing and economic support to local businesses.

Inspector: R Sabu; Written representations

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