Sevenoaks District Draft Local Plan Consultation July 2018

Document Section Draft Local Plan July 2018 Supporting a Vibrant and Balanced Economy Economic Land and Development Policy 13 - Supporting a Vibrant and Balanced Economy [View all comments on this section]
Comment ID DLPP971
Respondent Craig Slack ID-1106 [View all comments by this respondent]
Response Date 26 Sep 2018
Current Status Accepted
Response Type OBSERVATIONS
Comment

THE SITE AND BACKGROUND

Media House is an L-shaped three-storey office building. It was built in the 1960s as an office, and it is still used as an office for the building contractor United Living.

The prevailing land use of the immediate and wider area is residential. This includes Horizon House (east of the site), which is an eight-storey former office building which has been converted to a residential use. Non-residential uses in the area comprise a small parade of shops directly to the east of the site; but this does not change the overall residential character of the area.

The site and local residents benefit from easy access to Swanley train station, which lies north of the site and within a five minute walk. From this station, local residents benefit from regular trains to London (at least one train every half an hour) which have a short journey time of between half an hour and an hour. Despite the site’s current office use, its potential for remaining in an employment use is redundant.

United Living has indicated that it does not want to remain in the building once its tenancy expires. The poor condition of the building and its location away from a town centre in a residential area deters new businesses from occupying it. Furthermore, it is not viable to refurbish the building to a modernstandard, given the demand is low at this location. Evidence related to this will be provided as part of the proposed planning application for redevelopment (see below) and at the next stage of the Draft Local Plan consultation (Proposed Submission version in November 2018).

PROPOSED REDEVELOPMENT

Artisan Real Estate Inverstors proposes to redevelop the site for a residential-led mixed use

development, at a density appropriate to the site’s sustainable location next to the train station and

appropriate to new government policy from the July 2018 National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which makes clear that such sites are to be optimised to deliver much-needed housing (Chapter 11).

A pre-application request will be submitted in due course which will provide scheme details. We do not wish to prejudice the pre-application request by providing further scheme details at this stage.

SUGGESTED DRAFT LOCAL PLAN POLICY 13 AMENDMENTS

The Draft Local Plan must be in accordance with the policies in the NPPF in order for it to be found legally sound. We go on to explain why we consider that Policy 13, in its current form, does not accord with the NPPF. Suggestions to the wording of Policy 13 are made to bring it in line with the NPPF and to ensure that the Draft Local Plan is sound in this regard.

Loss of employment evidence

The site is identified as allocated employment site EMP1(o). Policy 13 of the Draft Local Plan seeks to

retain this site in employment use. The loss of the employment use of the site will be allowed by Policy 13 if marketing evidence can be provided (at the point of the site being available, or shortly available) for a period of at least one year demonstrating no demand, in addition to evidence demonstrating that forecast changes to market conditions will not result in the take up of the site.

We consider that the requirement for one year of marketing and forecasting evidence is onerous. And that this does not align with the NPPF requirement at para 81 which is explicit in stating that planning policies must be flexible enough to enable a rapid response to changes in economic circumstances. The requirement for both the one year marketing and forecast information will slow down the development process and is not flexible enough.

To remedy this problem, we suggest that the requirement is for one year of marketing evidence or

forecasting evidence. This is flexible and allows a rapid response to changing economic circumstances.

As stated previously, Artisan Real Estate Investors is able to provide forecasting evidence to demonstrate that there is no likelihood of future employment take-up of the building at the site.

Other employment uses consideration

Policy 13 goes on to state that, where the abovementioned evidence has been provided, applicants must consider the following uses (in order) before a residential use is permissible: Other B Use Classes and Use Class A2, all other non-residential employment generating uses, and residential employment generating uses (Use Classes C1 and C2).

Again we consider Policy 13 is onerous because of this requirement, and that this requirement is not in alignment with para 81 of the NPPF. For example, having to demonstrate as part of a residential

application why a care home, which may employ less than ten people, after marketing information has demonstrated that businesses do not want the site, is unnecessary and inflexible, slows down the planning and development process, deters redevelopment, and will not necessarily achieve overriding economic objectives.

Our suggestion is that this requirement for considering the other uses in a hierarchical order is deleted from Policy 13. Instead, it will be more efficient and NPPF compliant if the policy requirement is for the initial one year marketing evidence or forecasting evidence to capture employment uses (in the B Use Class) only. Then any other uses proposed (dictated by the market) ought to be assessed on their merits.

Mixed-use redevelopment

Policy 13 supports the redevelopment of employment sites for mixed use purposes, so long as it will:

facilitate regeneration to meet modern needs, maintain commercial floorspace, and represent a

sustainable approach consistent with general distribution of development. This is notwithstanding any evidence to demonstrate that employment uses are redundant.

We generally support this policy, but take the view that the requirement to maintain commercial

floorspace again fails to be consistent with NPPF para 81, because it offers no flexibility. A better

approach is if this policy can instead require like-for-like floorspace or lesser floorspace whereby it can be demonstrated that there is an economic benefit compared to the existing scenario. For example, it is often the case that a new development with lesser commercial floorspace can offer more and higher quality jobs, when compared to an existing outdated commercial building with a low employment

density and lower quality jobs.

CONCLUSION AND SUMMARY

Media House is currently used as an office, but it is not needed for employment purposes in the future because of its location and because it is not fit for modern needs. Given its location in a residential area and next to Swanley railway station, a residential-led redevelopment is more appropriate for the site.

With regard to Draft Local Plan Policy 13, we consider the following amendments will bring it in line with the employment policies of the NPPF (which specifically seek flexibility):

• For demonstrating loss of an employment use, a requirement for one year of marketing evidence

or forecasting evidence demonstrating future take-up is not likely. This is instead of the current

wording which requires both.

• Removal of the requirement for consideration of other employment generating uses once the

marketing evidence has demonstrated lack of demand. The marketing evidence only ought to be

the test of whether an employment use (B Use Classes only) is required for the site.

• Mixed-use redevelopment of employment sites to require like-for-like commercial floorspace or a

lesser amount of commercial floorspace where there will be economic benefits, as demonstrated

by the applicant. This is instead of the current wording which is rigid and seeks like-for-like

floorspace only.

We trust that you will take these comments into account. If you have any queries in the meantime,

please contact me or my colleague Sid Hadjioannou.

 

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