Although achieving high-quality design is a worthy objective we do have to recognise that it can’t always be done, a truth acknowledged by an inspector dealing with an appeal against the refusal of planning permission for a café in two shipping containers in west Yorkshire (DCS Number 400-021-124).
The site was in a mixed commercial and residential area which included a busy main road. The inspector accepted that the shipping containers would be converted in a professional manner but held that they would nevertheless retain a very industrial, functional appearance. He considered that the design quality would not be of the highest standard and found that the proposal would not contribute positively to local character. However, he thought that it would also not detract from it. Although improving the current appearance of the site, he agreed with the council that the proposal would fall short of achieving the high standard of design that was sought by development plan policies and the Framework.
The inspector recorded, however, that numerous applications had been made over a significant period, seeking to achieve a beneficial use of the land. It was also apparent that the site had detracted from the appearance of the area. There was no evidence before him, he noted, to suggest that other, more appropriate uses would be likely to take place, in the near future, if the appeal were to fail. He reasoned that the proposal would result in a beneficial use of the currently derelict site and this would help to ensure that it would be better maintained. It would also bring economic benefits and provide a service to the community and surrounding businesses. He found considerable support for a more efficient use of the site and for the commercial benefits it would bring from development plan policy. In addition, the Framework is clear that significant weight should be placed on the need to support economic growth and productivity, he noted.
The inspector decided that the positive and effective use of the site and the economic benefits would be sufficient to outweigh the design shortcomings and the conflict with the design-related policies. He therefore allowed the appeal.
Section 4.13 of DCP Online discusses the scope of development control to influence the design of new development.