Cheshire East Council has lost an appeal against their refusal to grant planning permission for the change in use of a former petrol filling station to a hand car wash and valet business.
Shines appealed to the Planning Inspectorate over the committee's refusal of their plans for two car wash bays - consisting of a spraying area and a valeting area - at the site of the former Kings Arms Service Station on Alderley Road in Wilmslow.
They company were also awarded full costs because the Council failed to submit a statement in support of its reasons for refusing planning permission within the given timescales.
Despite being recommended for approval by the Planning Officer, the Northern Planning Committee refused planning permission in July 2017 on the grounds that it would be detrimental to the character of the area and not enhance this important gateway site to Wilmslow. Additionally, the committee decided the proposed development would be contrary to the interests of highway safety because of the potential for cars waiting to access the site queuing back onto the public highway.
However, Shines appealed on the grounds that "There would be no harm to the character and appearance of the area, neighbouring amenity or highway safety. The proposal would comply with the development plan and in accordance with paragraph 14 of the NPPF, should be approved without delay. There are no material considerations to indicate otherwise."
The Planning Inspectorate allowed the appeal, stating the following reasons:
- The use of the site as a car wash and valeting business would not be out of place given its planning history and the nature of the adjacent land uses.
- Neither those operations nor the nature or volume of vehicle movements generated would be such as to have a significant adverse effect on the overall character of the area.
- Its redevelopment and re-use would be of positive benefit in removing the adverse effect that the vacant site currently has on the appearance of this section of the road.
- None of the proposed buildings or structures would be inappropriate in the context of the surrounding uses when seen from Alderley Road. From Knutsford Road and from residential properties on Donkey Lane they would largely be screened by the intervening buildings and stored materials on the Travis Perkins site. There would, accordingly, be no material effect on the character or appearance of these streets or of the wider area of Fulshaw Park.
- Based on this evidence there would be limited risk of vehicles queuing on the public highway to access the site. I also accept the appellant's argument that car wash facilities are, to some extent, self-regulating in that, if customers see a long queue, they would be likely either to go to a different facility or come back at a quieter time.
- I consider that the nature and level of vehicle movements into and out of the site would not cause significant risks to cyclists or to pedestrians using the footway. I note that the bus stop is used by school children and other users but, given its location roughly midway the proposed vehicle entrance and exit points and the generous width of the footway, I do not consider that the proposal would lead to a significant risk to the safety of those using the bus stop.
The applicant Mr Isa Dajci also appealed for a full award of costs against Cheshire East Council. Irrespective of the outcome of the appeal, costs may only be awarded against a party who has behaved unreasonably and thereby caused the party applying for costs to incur unnecessary or wasted expense in the appeal process.
However, a full award of costs was granted because Cheshire East Council failed to submit a Statement of Case in support of its reasons for refusal within the timescales set out. The Council sought to submit a statement after the relevant date but, because the Planning Inspectorate received notification of this request after he'd completed his site visit, the statement was not accepted as late evidence as it would have delayed the issue of the decision.
Paul Singleton, Planning Inspectorate, said "The Council is entitled not to accept the advice of its professional officers and to reach a decision on a planning application which is contrary to the recommendation of those officers. When it does so it must be able to show that it had reasonable grounds for taking that decision and must produce evidence at the appeal stage to substantiate each of its reasons for refusal of planning permission. By not submitting a Statement of Case the Council has failed to explain why it took a decision contrary to the professional advice it received and failed to substantiate the reasons for the refusal of planning permission.
"I find that these failures amount to unreasonable behaviour on the Council's part and that, had the officers' advice been followed, the appeal could have been avoided entirely. That unreasonable behaviour has, accordingly, resulted in the appellant incurring unnecessary and wasted expenditure in submitting the appeal and related evidence. A full award of costs is, therefore, justified."