Office redevelopment rejected over excessive density and bulk

The secretary of state has rejected the proposed redevelopment of an edge-of-town-centre office block in Surrey as flats and a health facility after finding that it would not be of sufficient quality.

Because the extremely large block had dominated the site for more than 40 years, the inspector accepted that that the domestic scale of nearby inter-war housing should not unduly influence the size of its replacement. He found the design and detailing of the elevations in the appeal proposal to be of a high standard.

However, he was concerned that the addition of a central wing of flats to form an E-shaped building within the U-shaped footprint of the offices would result in a congested and cramped development of unduly high density. In his view, the full width and depth of the building would be readily apparent from the road and its massing would appear commercial and institutional in appearance rather than residential.

The secretary of state agreed that the visual benefit presented by the openness of the building's courtyard amenity areas would effectively be lost. She decided that although a building of this footprint, scale and mass might be acceptable in an inner city context, it would appear out of place on the appeal site.

She agreed with the inspector that the provision of 181 one and two-bedroom flats would not meet the priority needs of the district identified in a housing needs survey. She saw the proposal as a lost opportunity for the creation of a mixed community, a fault compounded by the fact that existing key worker development nearby also comprised small units.

On the other hand, she considered that the site's characteristics and location made it unsuitable for family accommodation. The affordable housing content of the scheme was acceptable and in accordance with the thrust and objectives of council policies if not its actual targets, she ruled. However, she concluded that the scheme failed principally because of its excessive density.

DCS Number 100-050-838

Inspector Martin Andrews; Inquiry.

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