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Local businesses oppose Chancellors' application to turn their office into a house

Charlbury Business Community decided last week to oppose Chancellors' application for a change of use for its former office in Market Street, from office to residential. Here is the text of the letter CBC has sent to the planning officer in charge, Miss Dawn Brodie (

The building in question has been used as an office, but is in fact designed as a shop. Estate agents prefer to adapt a shop for office use, for obvious reasons, but few businesses with an office function would wish to locate in such premises. As explained below this building has been a shop for almost all its 103 year life.

To our knowledge at least two retailers have enquired about renting the premises as a shop, to be told it is not to let, while a third tells me he is interested but has heard that other people have been put off. We assume that WODC would look favourably on a proposal to convert to retail.

The site is a prime retail location in Charlbury, uniquely visible to anyone walking or driving though the town centre.

The applicant's claim that "the proposals do not include any external changes to the building and will therefore preserve the character and appearance of the area" is true only in the sense that it is an outline application. If accepted, it would have to be followed by a detailed plans for conversion, which would inevitably and radically alter the appearance of the building. We regard all claims as to "no external changes" as spurious.

The applicant claims that the proposal "would not cause demonstrable harm to any interest of acknowledged importance." We believe that the presence of shops and other businesses in the town centre is of vital and acknowledged importance. The fact that one or two other business premises in the town remain unlet or unsold has more to do with unrealistic asking prices and/or special conditions in the lease than with a lack of applicants or enquirers. As we know, at least three people are seriously interested in the Chancellors 'office' as a lock-up shop. Also, flats of the type above the premises are always in demand, to buy or to let.

Another claim is that the change of use "would restore the original use of the building." In fact the premises were built as a shop within the construction of a new public house (the present Rose and Crown) after a pub fire in 1905. Photographs in the possession of local people, the Charlbury Museum and visible on the town website show that there has been a shop there ever since: the earliest dated postcard is from 1906, and among its uses the shop has even been the town post office. There is nothing whatever 'original' about a residential use for the ground floor. The present building has been a retail shop for almost all its life, until Chancellors turned it into an office. Indeed we agree with the applicant that the premises should revert to their 'original use': that is, retail.

The applicant implies that his proposal will improve the parking situation through direct access to the rear yard. We need to clarify that the access to the yard is purely pedestrian: there is no vehicular right of access.

Charlbury Business Community believes this application should be referred to the planning committee, and should be refused on grounds of damage to the local economy and adverse effects on a conservation area.

Jon Carpenter · Tue 26 May 2009, 16:10 · Link

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