DC Casebook: Mixed Use Development - Design standard rejected at gateway site

Despite receiving a favourable recommendation from an inspector, the developers behind a major mixed-use scheme in Surrey have failed to persuade the secretary of state that its design quality is sufficient.

The 1.6ha site on the edge of a town centre was partly contaminated and largely derelict. The developers proposed to build 225 flats, 900m2 of commercial floor space, a replacement police station and a landscaped public and community space. Four main blocks would be created, some reaching a height of between four and six storeys, with an eight-storey tower separated by a public piazza.

The inspector decided that the scheme's impact on the surrounding conservation area was a significant consideration. However, he saw little justification for seeking to restrict the height of development to three storeys. In his view, the intensive use of land proposed would be appropriate to its setting and there was no need to replicate the built form and scale of the immediate area.

In considering whether the scheme should make provision for affordable housing, he acknowledged the appellants' claim that the scheme would be unviable if it were provided on-site. Their offer to provide 38 affordable dwellings elsewhere was an appropriate way to deal with this issue, he held.

The secretary of state, while agreeing with the majority of her inspector's conclusions, decided that the eight-storey tower lacked inspiration and failed to display the level of design expected of such a major scheme. PPS1 requires new development to be of high quality and reinforce local distinctiveness, she observed. Deficiencies in the design meant that the scheme would not improve the character of the area, she concluded.

Inspector: Andrew Freeman; Inquiry.

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