Tue, 29 Oct 2019
WEST Berkshire Council’s decision to refuse plans for hotel-style apartments adjacent to Herongate Leisure in Hungerford was “unreasonable”, a planning inspector has ruled.
As a result, Kerridge Properties Ltd’s appeal has been successful and the development will be allowed.
And in a further humiliation, Her Majesty’s Planning Inspectorate awarded costs against West Berkshire Council for its “unreasonable behaviour” which it said had resulted in “unnecessary and wasted expense”.
The news will also come as a disappointment to Hungerford Town Council’s environment and planning committee, which had formally objected to the project.
The applicant had sought permission for a change of use from a former crêche to allow four serviced apartments.
The site is located in Charnham Business Park, which is a Protected Employment Area.
A West Berkshire Council planning officer’s report stated: “The proposed serviced flats will not be located on suitable land within the settlement boundary due to the site being a Protected Employment Area.
“The proposal will harm the character and appearance of the surrounding area and how it functions.”
But planning inspector Ian Harrison ruled: “I consider that the presence of serviced apartments, whose primary function is to serve visitors to the employment area, would be of benefit to the companies based in the locality and, as such, the use would be complementary to the employment area.
“The proposal would see the replacement of one complementary use with another and, as such, would not cause the loss of employment floorspace that would undermine the employment strategy.”
Mr Harrison further ruled that the fact the site was within a Designated Employment Area was actually in the application’s favour.
Turning to the issue of the costs of the appeal, Mr Harrison ruled: “Reasons for refusal were advanced on the basis that the proposal was for the residential use of a building, but this was not the basis of the application.
“The evidence before me indicates that no regard was had to the aspect of policy CS9 that allows for complementary uses to be located within the Protected Employment Area.
“No assessment appears to have been made as to whether the proposal accorded with this aspect of the policy at the time that the application was determined.
“A stance appears to have been taken that only employment uses are acceptable.
“I therefore do not agree that full regard was had to the content of the development plan and I find this to be a further example of [West Berkshire Council’s] unreasonable behaviour.”
Mr Harrison concluded: “Unreasonable behaviour by the council, resulting in unnecessary and wasted expense ... has been demonstrated and a full award of costs is justified.”