A PLANNING inspector has rejected a proposal which could have resulted in the loss of at least 15 jobs in a New Forest town.

Ancillary Developments has been refused consent to bulldoze commercial units at Green Lane, Fordingbridge, and replace them with up to nine homes.

The application to redevelop the site sparked fears that jobs would disappear unless the businesses based there were able to move to other sites.

New Forest District Council rejected the original proposal in February 2019.

Ancillary Developments lodged an appeal, citing the poor state of the existing buildings and the urgent need for more housing in the district.

But government-appointed planning inspector Martin Smith has upheld the council's decision, saying the loss of the commercial units would damage the local economy.

Mr Small added: "At the time of my site visit the majority of units were occupied.

"Several were being used by a furniture manufacturer as operational and storage premises. Other units were being used as a vehicle repair workshop and a storage unit for a cycle shop elsewhere in the town."

Mr Small said 15 people were employed on the site in July, according to the applicant.

But he stressed that some of the units were vacant at the time, indicating the site was capable of providing even more jobs.

He added: "The appellant has outlined a number of issues with the buildings, including the likely presence of asbestos, settlement and rising damp.

"A survey suggests the cost of replacing the external wall cladding, decontamination and cleaning the existing structures is likely to be substantial. However, no evidence has been submitted to demonstrate that such investment would not be financially viable.

"Furthermore, no evidence is provided to indicate the premises are unsuited to their current occupiers. The activity I witnessed during my visit suggests the opposite.

"Evidence submitted by many of those objecting to proposed development indicates that these businesses have been in operation for 15-20 years."

Ancillary Developments cited what it described as the "limited nature" of employment provided by the site.

One of the documents submitted by the applicant as part of the appeal process said the buildings were in a poor state of repair.

It added that "substantial investment" was needed if the site was to continue to provide job opportunities in the medium to long term.

But its position away from a recognised industrial location, along with restricted access, meant such investment was unlikely to be forthcoming.


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