Casebook: Fallback option outweighs assessment concerns

The deputy prime minister has decided to grant permission for alternative mixed-use schemes to redevelop a former aluminium processing plant in Gloucestershire after ruling that a quantitative need had been proven.

Both schemes examined at the call-in inquiry involved a mix of retail warehousing and employment uses and each included a restaurant. The site already benefited from two extant permissions, one of which allowed 3,066m2 of non-food retailing.

The applicant had prepared a retail assessment based on the need for bulky goods. The deputy prime minister referred to PPS6's advice that a need assessment should be based on comparison goods as a whole and did not require subdivision into bulky and non-bulky items. However, he determined that there appeared to be no qualitative need for either scheme.

In assessing alternative sites, he noted that the sequential approach requires developers and retailers to examine whether a scheme might fit on more central sites by reducing buildings' footprint. He found little evidence to suggest that the developer had genuinely assessed whether either scheme could be located in a town centre if the format and design of the stores were altered.

In particular, he determined that the developer had failed to assess whether elements such as the restaurants could be disaggregated and secured on town centre sites. However, despite this failing, he agreed that the applicant had considered alternative locations and had concluded that these were in beneficial use, showing no signs of becoming available within a five-year period.

He decided that it would be preferable to grant permission for both schemes, since the fallback position from the extant permissions would result in a greater loss of employment land and would fail to secure wider planning benefits such as comprehensive redevelopment of the site. He deferred final decisions pending the submission of a revised legal agreement on highway improvements.

DCS No: 100039444; Inspector: Clive Hughes; Inquiry.

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