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Planning inspector allows west London office-to-homes conversion, after dismissing council's transport concerns

Out-Law News | 06 Nov 2014 | 5:21 pm | 2 min. read

A planning inspector has allowed a developer's appeal and granted approval for the conversion of a nine-storey office building in Hayes, west London, after dismissing a local planning authority's concerns about the potential transport impacts of the proposals.

Developer Galliard Homes applied to Hillingdon Council in April for prior approval for the proposed change of use of a nine storey office building on Station Road in Hayes into a residential development of 98 studio and one-bedroom flats.

Under a permitted development right introduced by the UK government in May 2013, councils in England may only refuse applications for the conversion of offices to homes on the basis of contamination and flooding risks or their transport and highway impacts.

The Council refused the application in May, saying that insufficient off-street parking had been proposed and that the provision of inadequate facilities for service vehicles was likely to cause "unsatisfactory manoeuvring on the adjoining highway and/or indiscriminate parking". The Council considered that there was likely to be an impact on safety and traffic flow on the surrounding streets and added that the developer failed to provide "an accurate transport appraisal ... to demonstrate that the proposed development will not have unsatisfactory transport impacts".

In a decision letter dated 27 October (3-page / 68 KB PDF), planning inspector Edward Gerry disagreed with the Council's assessment of the likely transport impacts of the scheme. The inspector acknowledged a statement from the secretary of state for communities and local government (SoS) in August, in which he requested that councils ensure sufficient parking was provided at new developments. However the inspector gave limited weight to the statement, noting that, while the SoS' statement referred specifically to providing parking for family homes, the present development would contain only studio and one-bedroom flats.

Gerry said that the appeal site had "good access to public transport", being in close proximity to bus stops and the Hayes and Harlington train station, and that the Council did not dispute "that the existing permitted use at the appeal site generates higher levels of vehicular movements than the use proposed". Noting that the provision of 98 cycle parking spaces on site would also promote cycle use, the inspector concluded that the 45 vehicular car parking spaces proposed by the developer represented "sufficient off-street vehicular parking".

In relation to concerns that the continued use of a paved area to the use of the site for parking by delivery vehicles, the inspector said he had seen "no evidence" that such use had caused any accidents in the past. Furthermore, the existence of a zebra crossing near the turning area meant that "vehicles which pass the site ... travel at slow speeds".

Allowing the appeal and granting approval for the change of use, the inspector concluded that "the creation of residential units in a highly accessible location would meet the aims of the [National Planning Policy] Framework to promote sustainable means of transport and help meet the pressing need for new housing, thereby meeting its overarching goal to promote sustainable development.