A DEVELOPER looking to expand on a new residential area in one of Newbury’s industrial zones has been refused permission to build a three-storey apartment block at the site.
Plans for 31 new flats at Overbridge Square Business Park, in Hambridge Lane, were rejected by West Berkshire Council this week.
The five existing office blocks on the business park are currently being converted under permitted development rights (PDR) into 107 apartments – a move which has caused concern in many quarters over the loss of the town’s protected business space.
A further planning application is currently being considered to convert the plant rooms of each building into another 34 flats.
In total the developer had hoped to have 172 one and two bed flats on the business park.
However, council planners said the plans for the new three-storey building, which would be built on the existing car park, should be refused on environmental grounds.
In the Environmental Health report, specific concerns were raised over the impact of noise from adjacent factories to the east.
Nearby business owners had also raised concerns over the effect the residential properties could have on their business – this, however, was not a technical planning matter.
Much has been made recently over the continued loss of the town’s business space, with fears that the Newbury may be becoming a dormitory town.
PDR conversions have seen more than 100,000 sq ft of Newbury office space (including 60,000 sq ft at Overbridge Square) taken off the commercial market in the last year.
Changes to the PDR planning legislation, introduced by the coalition Government in 2013, mean developers now do not need to submit a planning application to change the use of a building from business to residential.
The loophole has left local authorities almost powerless to prevent the conversions, as the legislation dictates that such developments can only be refused on specific grounds such as noise impact, highways and flooding.
However, plans to build new apartment blocks, such as the proposal at Overbridge Square, come under normal planning regulations, giving councils more control over what gets built and where.
Considering the 31 flats at Overbridge Square, the officer states the council “accepts the principle” of further housing at the business park given the PDR situation, but does not accept the lack of amenity space, no agreement over the affordable homes and the visual impact.
Highways officers had also said the cumulative impact of the 107 PDR units, the additional 34 units in the plant rooms and the new 31-apartment building would be unacceptable.
In the planning report, the officer does acknowledge the social benefit of the 10 affordable units proposed, however he points out that the section 106 agreement had yet to be completed to guarantee the delivery of the homes.
The officer goes on: “In environmental terms, the application is, however, not acceptable, given the cumulative impact of parking pressures that would arise on the application site in Overbridge Square for the reasons identified above.
“There is also the lack of on-site amenity space to take into account.”