Convenience stores are a common sight on urban street corners and provide a much valued service, but they are vulnerable given the ever increasing demand for more new homes. In one case, a shopkeeper failed in a High Court bid to overturn prior approval to convert his premises for residential use.
The shop was on the ground floor of a building, the remainder of which was already used as living accommodation. The property's landlord wished to close the shop and use the whole of the premises for residential purposes. He was refused prior consent by the local authority on the basis that the closure would lead to an unacceptable loss of retail services in the locality.
A government planning inspector, however, disagreed with the council and upheld the landlord's appeal. In granting the consent sought, she concluded that, if the shop were to close, an adequate supply of retail premises, providing a variety of services, would still be maintained in the neighbourhood.
In dismissing the shopkeeper's challenge to that decision, the Court rejected his plea that the proposed change of use would affect an area in excess of 150 square metres and that the fast-track prior approval procedure was thus inappropriate. Also rejected were submissions that the procedure followed by the inspector had in a number of respects breached the rules of natural justice.
Arguments that the provisions of the local development plan had been ignored, and that the inspector had failed adequately to consider the shop's status as an asset of community value, also fell on fallow ground. Finally, the Court rejected submissions that the inspector had failed properly to consider whether the change of use would conflict with the Equality Act 2010, in that the shop's closure would render retail facilities less accessible for disabled and elderly residents.