One of the skills we pride ourselves on at RA Architects is our ability to help clients overcome planning constraints to gain a successful application outcome.
Each project we work on has individual planning considerations, however we thought it may provide an interesting insight to blog about one of our more contentious applications and the process undertaken by our colleague Cai to help secure planning approval for our private client.
The Vale of Glamorgan (Vale of Glamorgan Council.)
The Project Brief:
A change of use scheme where our client was looking to convert two retail units (one of which had lain dormant for several years) into a single residential dwelling.
Why did the Council recommend refusal?
The Vale of Glamorgan have a well-meaning policy (LDP policy MG15 as detailed below) which protects commercial units in local retail centres being converted to flats; however conversion to a residential dwelling is still permissible if it can be proven that the retail unit is no longer commercially viable.
For our client to be allowed to convert the property they needed to provide clear evidence that the shop units weren’t commercially viable. Our client submitted proof that they had tried to market the property for sale as retail units for several years but were unsuccessful.
One of the planners felt that the evidence submitted by our clients was not sufficient and suggested that the property could be rented or that our client could consider changing the use to other retail, commercial or community type services. The council questioned why there was not a ‘For Sale’ sign outside the property.
Our client responded that whilst every effort was made to market the building they did not agree to a ‘For Sale’ sign outside the property due to the potential negative impact it may have for the business of the client’s wife who ran a cake company from the larger unit.
Once the case officer confirmed that the evidence submitted by our client was deemed insufficient and the planners were going to recommend a refusal our clients called the application to planning committee.
What happens at a Vale of Glamorgan planning committee meeting?
The planning authority present the application and their recommendations and the applicant or agent (in this case Cai,) speak in favour of the scheme. The councillors then vote whether they wish to uphold the planners recommendation.
In this example, Cai explained the submitted evidence and also emphasised that the retail units were situated on the periphery of the retail centre, and were not a prominent frontage in the retail centre. As neighbouring retail units included a newsagents, pharmacy and Tesco express, Cai suggested that the change of use scheme would not affect the day to day needs of the local community.
The Councillors of the planning committee however upheld the planner’s recommendation and refused the application.
What can be done after planning has been refused?
Cai discussed the project with his clients and together they decided to appeal the planning decision. The case was passed to an independent, senior appointed planning inspectorate who would make a final decision. Cai wrote an appeal statement comprehensively explaining why he believed the application met the policy criteria.
What did the planning inspectorate find?
The planning inspectorate concluded that there was no evidence to suggest the marketing of the property had been insufficient and accepted our clients’ reasoning for the lack of a physical ‘For Sale’ board. The inspector also dismissed the council’s idea that the property could be tenanted if not sold. Commenting that ‘prolonging the period of vacancy of [the] retail units with no certainty that a sale could be achieved, would have a negative impact on the vibrancy of the centre.’
Finally, in consideration of all points raised by The Vale of Glamorgan council, alongside the evidence submitted by ourselves and our client the inspector approved the application.
If you are undertaking a project and would like to receive some advice regarding planning permissions, please do get in touch. Call the office on 01633 744144 or email email@example.com to arrange a free consultation.