Social and economic benefits of care accommodation overcome restriction on employment land

In planning for age restricted housing, recent appeal decisions are very pertinent in building a case for new developments. This recent appeal is particularly helpful and the main points are summarised below:

Appeal for 74 bed care home, Ashfield District, Nottinghamshire

Developers of care accommodation often seek to make use of allocated employment land or land that is currently in commercial use. This is because of the lack of suitable sites but also competition for brownfield, or any land from residential developers. However, commercial sites are on many occasions strongly defended by Councils even if a particular care use will have a significant number of employees.

This appeal is a good example of the employment benefits of care schemes, transport considerations and also how Inspectors are dealing with the requests for health infrastructure.

The site was B1/B2/B8 (meaning office and warehousing alongside nearly all general employment uses) employment land made up of various commercial units which were vacant and detracting from the character of the area.

There was an acknowledged unmet need for 650 care home beds in the borough and no evidence of a shortage of B1/B2/B8 units at a local or District wide level.

There was no dispute over the fact that the proposals would offer 40 full time and 20 part time jobs in addition to those involved in the construction of the development. These benefits would not materialise if the buildings were left vacant. Evidence was presented that due to the location of the site, there was little demand for B1/B2/B8 units.

Paragraph 22 of the NPPF states that planning policies should avoid the long term protection of sites allocated for employment use where there is no reasonable prospect of a site being used for that purpose. Applications for “alternative uses should be treated on their merits having regard to market signals and the relative need for different land uses to support sustainable local communities”. The Framework does not stipulate that a lack of demand for the buildings has to be demonstrated. The Inspector recognised the emphasis in the NPPF on securing economic growth and therefore these elements of the proposal weighed heavily in favour of permission.

The proposals were considered to be an improvement on the various commercial units on the site which were vacant and detracting from the character of the area

Traffic impact was considered to be an improvement with no large goods vehicles needed to serve the care development. The Inspector also noted that:

“car ownership levels among the proposed demographic are unlikely to be high and the site is well located in relation to the town centre and local bus stops”.

In addition, the Council requested £25,000 to support health infrastructure, this was at the appeal and not through the application process. The Inspector concluded that:

“Whilst I accept that future residents are likely to use local health services that in itself is not sufficient justification for the contribution. There is nothing before me to demonstrate that existing services are currently deficient. Nor is there any evidence setting out the anticipated levels of usage from future residents. Finally, I have no way of knowing how the very rounded and vague figure of £25,000 has been calculated, what exactly it would be spent on and when. In these circumstances I cannot be sure that failure to provide the contribution would have an unacceptable effect on existing health services. The contribution does not therefore meet the tests.”

The Inspector’s conclusion states that:

“the development would deliver significant social, economic and environmental benefits consistent with the development plan and the framework” .

This appeal decision applies not only to care homes, but usefully demonstrates how the benefits of extra care and assisted living schemes can overcome strong objections from Local Planning Authorities; provided the correct evidence is presented. If you would like any further information on this appeal or the issues it addresses, please contact us at all@tetlow-king.co.uk

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"Social and economic benefits of care accommodation overcome restriction on employment land"

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