DOE REF : APP/X0605/A/96/267153

LPA REF : SJC/95/01148/COU

1.1 It is the Council's view that the principal issues for this Inquiry, based on the reasons for refusal, are:

i. whether the development conflicts with the development plan.

ii. whether the development would be detrimental to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area.

1.2 The Introduction to my evidence states that my responsibility at the Inquiry is to present the planning policy case relevant to the refusal of permission for the change of use to a Class A3 restaurant. The proposal was determined by Full Council, with a recommendation of refusal from the Development Committee.
1.3 The appeal site is a vacant retail unit located at the entrance to The Forum shopping mall on the west side of Northgate Street. It faces the Town Hall Square and is within the Conservation Area. Section 2 describes the site and its location .
1.4 The nature of the application is detailed in section 3 where I make it clear that the proposal is for the change of use to an A3 use, rather than to a McDonald's restaurant. To impose a condition restricting the occupancy of the premises to a particular occupier would be contrary to Circular 11/95. The identity of the applicant seems to have been over-stated by the appellant.
1.5 Section 4 of my proof describes the relevant planning history, including re-furbishment of The Forum shopping mall and the scheme for the development of Forum II.
1.6 Planning policies and guidance are included in section 5. Section 54A requires the application or appeal to be determined in accordance with the development, unless material considerations indicate otherwise. The development plan is up to date and relevant. The objectives of protecting primary - retail frontages have been consistently applied from the 1983 plan through the 1988 plan to the 1996 draft plan.
1.7 PPG 1 states that in deciding a development proposal account should be taken of whether it would cause demonstrable harm to interests of acknowledged importance. As the proposal is contrary to the development plan and would detrimentally affect the character and appearance of the Conservation Area, it would cause demonstrable harm to those interests.
1.8 PPG 6 stresses the importance of creating vitality and viability in town centres by developing a wide range of attractions and amenities. This is achieved by the delineation of primary and secondary retail frontages in the local plan, enabling a variety of land uses to locate in the City Centre (sections 5.6 - 5.11).
1.9 The national and international importance of Chester is recognised in the Structure Plan policies which seek to ensure that development is compatible with the conservation and enhancement of the CitY Centre. (sections 5.14 - 5.22).
1.10 The local policies are contained in the statutory Greater Chester Local Plan 1983, the adopted Draft Revised Greater Chester Local Plan 1988 and the Chester District Local Plan Consultative Draft 1996 ( sections 5.23 - 5.57).
1.11 The appeal site is within the historic core of the City Centre where the objective of the policies is to sustain a balanced and thriving shopping centre. Proposals which would have an adverse effect on the shops in this central area, or result in a loss of shooninq units will be resisted.
1.12 Clearly, an A3 use would be contrary to local plan policy and, if allowed, would set a precedent for allowing such uses on a primary shopping street. This would cause demonstrable harm, not only to future implementation of the policies but also to the character of the historic shopping core of Chester.
1.13 The local plan policies enable a mix of uses on the secondary shopping streets, away from the central shopping core of the City Centre. This would be an acceptable location for an A3 use, as applied for, subject to meeting the criteria.
1.14 The Case for the Local Planning Authority is set out in section 7 and sets out the reasons why the proposal is contrary to policy. Examples are given of similar proposals.
1.15 The Grounds of Appeal are commented upon in section 8, in which great emphasis is placed by the appellant on the proposal being for a McDonald's restaurant, rather than an A3 use.
1.16 The appellant's assurances of provision of litter patrols and litter bins demonstrate an acceptance of a problem associated with the take-away element of their proposal. A future A3 occupier, over which the Local Planning Authority would have no control, may not adopt such responsible management policies. Planning deals with land use issues rather than manacement regimes.
1.17 The proposed A3 use or, a McDonald's restaurant, would be contrary to the policies of the Local Planning Authority and would cause harm to interests of acknowledged importance.
1.18 Section 54A requires determination to be in accordance with the development plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise. The proposal is clearly not in accordance with the development plan and there are no other material considerations which indicate that the decision should be made other than in accordance with the plan.
January 1997