A planning inspector has approved plans for a residential-led development on a brownfield site in Romford, despite concerns that 8 of the proposed apartments would have a ‘particularly gloomy’ outlook.

The appeal related to a two-storey office block in Victoria Road, Romford, a busy thoroughfare consisting of predominantly commercial and residential buildings.

The appellant sought permission to demolish the existing building and replace it with 35 apartments located in two blocks of 5 and 6-storeys in height with ground floor commercial units and a communal courtyard.

The local development plan identifies the area for redevelopment and intensification to provide additional housing. However, the inspector David Spencer noted, that despite the supportive policy framework which has been in place for a period of 10 years, “very little has happened” and the built environment of the area remains “moribund and lacking in cohesion”.

The appellant offered various explanations for this, including multiple landowners in the area and no agreed masterplan. In this context, Spencer ruled, that the principle of developing the appeal site in isolation was justified, because there was no indication that regeneration would come forward other than on a site-by-site basis.

The inspector went on to say that the scheme would have a density of 240 dwellings a hectare, which would be within the range for central Romford set out in the local development plan. It would therefore not be a “profligate” or inefficient use of the site.

Turning to the scheme’s design, Spencer found that while the height of the development would have “little synergy” with other buildings nearby, this would not be “especially harmful” given their varied scale and appearance.

Although one of the buildings would have a large, plain brick elevation, the appellant’s plans showed some articulation in the proposed brickwork. This would be effective in ensuring that the building’s plainness “does not become harmfully dominant and dull”, Spencer found.

Although the the building would achieve a generally good design, the inspector noted that there would be some harm to the living conditions of some occupants. 8 apartments would have a “particularly gloomy outlook”.

In the planning balance, Spencer considered that the scheme would “respond appropriately to its local context” and would make efficient use of a sustainably located brownfield site, in a way that “may serve as a stimulus for future investment”, as well as delivering 35 homes.

The harm arising from the poor outlook of 8 of the proposed apartments, “a very small proportion of the overall scheme”, Spencer concluded that the scheme’s benefits carried decisive weight. The appeal was subsequently allowed.

14 January 2019