The inspector noted that the town was losing trade to Canterbury and other larger shopping centres and he agreed with the local authority that its vitality and viability was relatively fragile. Consequently it was important for the area to maintain a high proportion of ground-floor units in retail use, he decided.
He held that to grant planning permission for the unauthorised change of use would set an undesirable precedent that would encourage further non-retail uses into the centre. This would erode the centre's retail base and was in clear conflict with a local plan policy, he concluded.
DCS No: 41351698; Inspector: Chris Trewick; Hearing.