The grade II listed property, dating from the 16th century, was located in a primary shopping frontage and was one of the largest units in the town centre. The proposal entailed the use of the rear portion of the ground floor as a betting office, with the remaining retail floorspace on the frontage being reduced by the introduction of a shared lobby and passageway.
The inspector acknowledged the appellant's claim that previous uses only broke even financially due to the size of the shop. But he noted that no substantial evidence about the viability of the existing unit had been submitted and that the market for the floorspace had not been tested.
The existing shop unit could have importance in retaining a variety of retail opportunities in the town centre, he felt.
He judged that the custom generated by full retail use of the premises would be important to the health of other retail premises in the primary shopping frontage. He concluded on this issue that the proposed partial use as a betting shop had not been shown to make a positive contribution to the vitality and viability of the area without significantly affecting the balance between shops and services.
Turning to the effect of the proposal on neighbours, the inspector held that the betting shop use would be inherently noisy due to racing news broadcasts and customers' reactions to them. He held that residential uses in town centres are an aspect of diversity which is important to the life and sustainability of urban communities.
Finally, the inspector acknowledged that the interior of the building had been much altered, but judged that the cumulative effect of the alterations would be damaging to its surviving interest. Since it had not been shown that the existing use was not viable, he concluded that retention of that use would be significantly less damaging to the special interest of the interior.
DCS No: 50453998 Inspector; Robin Jacques; Written representations.