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Permission Refused on Multiple Grounds for Mixed-Use Out of Town Retail Development in Sutton in Ashfield

Merrow Golden

A Planning Inspector has dismissed a planning appeal for a proposed mixed-use development, comprising a drive through Burger King, multiple retail units and a lorry fuelling and EV station on the Castlewood Grange Business Park in Sutton in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire.

The Council had refused the original planning application on three grounds – that (1) there had been a failure to show that there was no reasonable prospect of an employment use coming forward (pursuant to paragraph 120 of the NPPF), (2) the sequential test for out-of-town centre retail development had not been met, and (3) insufficient information had been supplied to fully demonstrate that the proposal would not have an adverse impact on highways safety.

The Inspector’s decision supported all three of those reasons for refusal. In particular, he found:

  1. The appeal site had not been thoroughly marketed for employment use, such that it could not be concluded with any degree of certainty that there was no reasonable prospect of an application coming forward for employment use; nor, had it been shown that the proposal would meet any unmet development needs.
  2. That an alternative town centre site was available and suitable which could accommodate all the retail elements of the scheme (the Inspector noted that the flexible nature of the speculative retail units lent themselves to a disaggregated approach but this was unnecessary due to the existence of an alternative site which could accommodate all retail elements).
  3. That, notwithstanding no locally set threshold had been set to require an impact assessment (and the development did not meet the default threshold of 2,500m2 set out in paragraph 89 of the NPPF), it was not possible to rule out an adverse impact on the viability of Sutton-in-Ashfield or Kirkby-in-Ashfield town centres, particularly given the increased pressure these areas are facing from the Covid19 pandemic and bearing in mind that (i) the retail units were speculative in nature and (ii) the best available evidence showed that a local threshold of 300m2 was appropriate.
  4. Insufficient evidence had been provided on highways impacts due to the fact that there remained a dispute between the parties over the appropriate study area so the Inspector could not unequivocally rule out a severe impact on the road network or an adverse effect on road safety.

Merrow Golden acted for Ashfield District Council in resisting the appeal.