DC Casebook: Retail Development - Inspector overrides store design concern

An inspector has overruled a Gloucestershire authority's concerns about the design of a proposed discount food store after concluding that the form of the building had to reflect its function.

The appeal site contained a car showroom and lay in an urban area but outside a town centre. The surrounding area was predominantly residential. The proposed store would have a flat roof hidden behind a parapet. While not objecting in principle to the development, the local authority criticised the form, design, mass and detailing of the proposed building. It asserted that it was too large for the location and would undermine the character of the area.

The inspector decided that the council had adopted an incorrect starting point in its critique. In particular, he held, it had failed to recognise a significant need for additional convenience goods shopping in the town that could only be met by a viable commercial operation. It would be of no benefit to promote a form of retail development with no commercial viability, he concluded.

The appellant, Aldi Stores Ltd, had developed a standard store format enabling a range of products to be displayed and sold to allow it to compete effectively with larger food store operators. A significantly smaller store would not foster a commercially viable trading level or provide for healthy competition and consumer choice in the food retail sector, the inspector held.

The suburb was generally pleasant but not outstanding and the site, while prominent, did not form an important gateway into the town, he judged. He decided that existing buildings were uninspiring, utilitarian, shabby and visually intrusive, harming the area's character. The store's scale and mass would be reduced by the use of different materials such as timber and concrete to articulate the elevations, he held. In his view, it would enhance the area.

DCS Number 100-064-288

Inspector Philip Crookes; Inquiry

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