Casebook: Appeal case - Housing: conversion - Employment site protection policy watered down

A scheme to convert part of a Gloucestershire mill to 57 flats and build three cottages has been allowed after an inspector decided that an emerging local plan policy resisting the loss of employment sites to residential use should be given reduced weight.

The policy, which had been subject to examination at a local plan inquiry and was nearing adoption, sought to impose a total prohibition on the loss of key employment sites, particularly on industrial estates. The local plan inspector had recommended no substantive change to the policy and consequently the council argued that it should be afforded substantial weight.

The inspector agreed that under normal circumstances the policy should be given significant weight. However, he noted that since preparing the policy the council had commissioned consultants to examine local employment needs. He also took into account paragraph 42(a) of PPG3, which supports housing on redundant employment land or buildings.

He decided that the council's approach to designating the land as a key employment site was too simplistic and did not demonstrate that it was needed. He found a considerable supply of industrial and warehouse space in the area. Since the existing buildings failed to meet modern standards, he ruled that there was no evidence to indicate that the site would attract commercial users.

DCS No: 100039447; Inspector: John Roberts; Inquiry.

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