Thursday, 19 October 2017

Empty office block set to be converted into 10 flats

A DISUSED Goring office block could be turned into flats.

A DISUSED Goring office block could be turned into flats.

Gatehampton Development, which owns CDR House in Gatehampton Road, says it cannot find a commercial tenant.

The two-storey complex was built in 1989 and was home to a number of scientific research companies until July last year, when the last occupier left.

The developer now wants to convert it into 10 flats, saying this would generate less traffic than when it was in commercial use. In a planning application submitted to South Oxfordshire District Council, it says part of the existing car park would be converted into a private garden.

F J Thompson & Co, Gatehampton’s surveyors, say: “During the past year the premises have been marketed by two agents but no one has expressed an interest in occupying the premises for office use.

“The change of use from offices to residential will result in a reduction of vehicular movements to and from the site, particularly at peak traffic times, and also a reduction in commercial vehicles frequenting the building for deliveries.”

The Government has changed planning laws to make it easier for offices to be converted into homes.

Such schemes are now considered “permitted development”, meaning they do not have to go through the full planning process.

A planning application must still be made but this is only to ensure there is no danger in terms of traffic, flooding or contamination.Planning authorities can no longer turn them down on grounds such as their size, their effect on the character of the area or their impact on the countryside.

Members of the public and parish councils are not invited to comment and cannot lodge formal objections.

Nonetheless, Goring Parish Council has written to the district council, expressing its opposition to the plans.

Kevin Bulmer, chairman of the planning committee, said: “We’ve told them that although the plans were not for our consideration, we would be objecting if we were able.

“The applicants have given few details of how they’re going to convert it so the implications are unknown.

“We are not happy that it is removing a vital commercial site from the village. We’ve got 100 houses on the way so we need to keep these commercial areas. They have also not provided enough detail on how exactly it is surplus to requirements.

“There is no substance to their claims and not enough to show that there is no demand for commercial use of the site.

“It’s one thing to grant permission if you’ve got a Sixties office block that’s been disused for years.

“However, it’s another thing to apply that to every single office development, full stop.”

The district council’s planning officers say Gatehampton has not provided enough information about whether the land is contaminated.

They have told the company it must carry out a formal risk assessment before the application can be considered.

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