An inspector has allowed the residential conversion of a commercial unit on the seafront in Suffolk, overruling the council’s objection that marketing of the property through the Covid-19 pandemic had not properly tested its viability for commercial use (DCS Number 400-036-526).
Local Plan policy stated that employment premises would be protected unless there was evidence that the premises had been marketed for a sustained period of 12 months. The council’s principal concern with regard to marketing, the inspector noted, was that the property was marketed during a period of unusual economic circumstances, particularly related to the Covid-19 pandemic. On this basis the council claimed that an additional period of at least 12 months marketing should be undertaken. Otherwise, there was insufficient certainty that a commercial use of the ground floor unit was not viable.
The inspector pointed out, however, that marketing had taken place for some 16 months outside the lockdown period. Furthermore, seven months of marketing had taken place since the council’s committee meeting on the planning application, with no end operator coming forward.
The inspector acknowledged the economic context of both the pandemic and, more broadly, the UK’s departure from the European Union, but recorded that the appellant had undertaken a comprehensive marketing exercise for considerably longer than the minimum 12 months required by policy. He decided that it would be unreasonable to conclude that the appellant had not met the marketing requirements. Furthermore, the proposed residential use would be beneficial in improving the appearance of the boarded-up building and the street scene, and would enhance the appearance of the conservation area.
There is a section concerning the marketing and viability of employment uses within 4.1446 of DCP Online.