Mixed use scheme benefits outweigh housing mix policy conflict

A mixed use residential and office conversion of existing commercial premises in a residential area of an east Sussex town was approved, with the inspector finding the lack of a policy-complaint mix and density of housing insufficient to outweigh the benefits of the mixed uses in an area of housing shortfall.

One of the two commercial buildings at the appeal site was to be converted and extended to create nine flats, the other building was to be extended to provide more modern office space. Marketing of the two commercial buildings had shown a lack of demand for the current level of employment floorspace and the inspector held the loss of some of the floorspace was offset by a combination of the new flats in one building and modernised office space proposed in the other.

The inspector’s main concern with the scheme was the mix of housing, namely the fact that it proposed seven one-bedroom, one two-bedroom and one three-bedroom flats. He felt this mix would not comply with the council’s adopted local plan housing mix policy which sought to redress the over-dominance of one-bedroom housing in the area in favour of family-sized market dwellings, especially as the appellant had not produced an assessment of local need to show otherwise. However, in the NPPF paragraph 11 planning balance the inspector opined that the modern office suite would benefit the local economy and the nine apartments would help offset the current undersupply of housing of only four years. In addition, both were in a location well-related to existing services and infrastructure. These factors weighed in favour of the proposal especially, he opined, in the context that the appeal site was quite small and confined, involved the re-use of vacant buildings and was unable to provide the amount of garden space which would be better suited for family-sized accommodation.

The inspector concluded the limited amount of harm arising from the overprovision of one-bedroom flats would neither significantly nor demonstrably outweigh the benefits he had identified and the proposal represented sustainable development. 

Inspector: Jonathan Price; Written representations


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