Buisness’s space needs allow temporary loss of dwelling

A financial planning business’s need for space justifies a temporary change of use of a flat in a Hertfordshire high street despite conflict with adopted local plan policies, an inspector has decided.

In seeking approval for a 12-month change of use of a second-floor flat in a mixed commercial building, the appellants explained that they were having difficulty in finding suitable premises in the area following the Covid-19 pandemic. Although no substantive evidence of a lack of suitable accommodation was presented with the application, the inspector accepted that a temporary permission would at least sustain the enterprise while arrangements to secure alternative accommodation were progressed.

She accepted that the proposal would result in the temporary loss of a dwelling from the borough’s overall supply of housing, resulting in conflict with adopted local plan policy. However, she saw no substantive evidence that the proposal would significantly undermine the council’s ability to meet its housing targets or requirements.

The inspector recognised that any employment and economic benefits from the proposal would be qualified by the fairly small scale of the commercial use. Nevertheless, she gave these benefits significant weight, finding that they would outweigh the limited harm caused by temporary removal of the dwelling from the supply and ultimately justified a decision not in accordance with the development plan. 

Inspector: Joanna Bowyer: Written representations

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