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  • Seb Kouyoumjian

A Big Win: Shirley Morrisons Planning Appeal Dismissed at Public Inquiry

We are incredibly proud of our two colleagues, Dave Carter (planning) and Seb Kouyoumjian (architecture/urban design), who acted as the expert witnesses on behalf of Solihull Council, in a newly dismissed planning appeal. The refused proposals were to develop the former Morrison’s supermarket site on Shirley high street, on Stratford Road, with a building up to 6 storeys, twice the height of the existing one.

© NPA Visuals

Often, we act not just on behalf of the private sector, but also for the public sector, where our specialist expertise is needed.

The proposed development was for 88 apartments and 84 care beds, as well as some commercial uses including a restaurant, and associated parking. The principle of developing the site was not in question given the high street location and the vacant site. However, the proposals included large sections double the height of most development in the town centre, with large areas of blank façade. We argued successfully that part of the essence of the existing town centre is that even the commercial buildings are of a smaller, domestic scale, and the proposals would therefore harm this consistency.

Dismissal of the appeal is not only a significant win for Tyler Parkes and Solihull Council. It is also a big win for the residents of Shirley, many of whom objected to the proposals because of the proposed building’s overdominance of the area, its overshadowing effect on nearby homes, and the potential worsening of traffic.

Planning appeals must be contested on the grounds of technical arguments, avoiding reliance on subjective opinion alone if possible, so we focused on basing our evidence on our knowledge of applicable planning policy and urban design best-practice guidance.

The developer attempted to argue that the proposals would form a landmark to help navigate the centre, and that it was a tall building among many others. We contended that the high street is a simple, wide, straight road, and combined with existing landmarks such as a Grade II Listed St James the Great Church, the area is already easy to navigate and therefore creating a landmark was not sufficient justification for the size of the building. Conversely, the developer argued a contradictory point that the building would not be that visible (whilst asserting it would be a landmark), showing computer-generated imagery of the building hidden behind Stratford Road’s trees in summer, even though the trees would be bare in winter, and there were plenty of other vistas from where the building would be highly visible.

The developer also asserted that because the area lacked any consistent architectural style, and in some places was poor-quality, that there was therefore no character to respect. The Inspector chairing the inquiry agreed with our evidence that the developer had not respected the character of the area, as height was one of these characteristics.

In making their representations, the developer also attempted to claim the costs of the appeal from the Council, alleging our evidence had been vague, with only general assertions. The Inspector noted her agreement with the way our evidence had been articulated, and our conclusions, and refused the claim by the developer to win back costs from the Council.

The process took about three months, with us working closely with the planning and legal teams at Solihull Council. We are very happy our hard work has secured the dismissal of this appeal, and the refusal of the costs claim.


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