Sign of the times

22 Jan 2024

For the second time in not many more months an appeal decision concerning a foodbank has come to our attention. Surely a sign of the times. Of course there have been previous cases but nothing notable for the best part of a decade.

In both of these recent cases, it was the temporary and out of keeping appearance of the building providing the foodbank premises that proved a major downfall. This is not so surprising when considering the urgency and limited budget with which these valuable community facilities are often set up.

It must be an unenviable task for any council or planning inspector to have to weigh up the public benefit of a community foodbank in the context of an acknowledged cost of living crisis against other considerations, but this is precisely what is required of the decision-maker.

In the latest appeal (400-043-996), an inspector judged the poor appearance of a portable cabin installed on a car parking area to the rear of a locally listed building detracted from its setting and interest but the significant public benefit of the food bank relied upon by members of the local community outweighed the harm to the non-designated heritage asset. However, this benefit was held insufficient to justify harm to the wider conservation area, a designated heritage asset, and the appeal was dismissed.

National policy and guidance on assessing the potential impacts of development on the historic environment and undertaking the heritage balance in decision-making is summarised in DCP 4.3711.