PLANS to convert an unused warehouse into a temporary home for indoor bowls in Swindon have been tipped for approval – despite concerns from ward councillor Des Moffatt that it would be against planning policy.
Swindon Oasis Indoor Bowls Club was informed earlier this year that the existing six-rink facility at the Oasis Leisure Centre would be replaced with a gymnasium as part of the centre’s alterations by private developer Moirai Capital Investments.
Swindon Council proposes to pay about £100,000 to convert the warehouse it owns on Cheney Manor Industrial Estate into a four-rink indoor bowls facility for three years while the council looks for a permanent venue.
However, Coun Moffatt (Lab, Rodbourne Cheney) called in the planning application for change of use, which will be discussed by the planning committee tonight, on the basis it is contrary to a policy of the Swindon Local Plan.
Coun Moffatt said: “Another site should have been chosen. It’s not beyond the wit of man to find and adopt a site that’s not currently used or potentially used for industrial purposes.
“Empty units are an advantage in this economic climate for potential developing or relocating industries. If you don’t have any empty units, you aren’t going to attract new business.
“We’ve got some land, not as much as I would like available, for relocating or developing business. We have various units available and these are all to advantage and so is this one.
“Cheney Manor Industrial Estate has been a useful asset for a long time.
“To encroach on it with leisure is short-sighted and to my mind foolish. However, if the Bluh administration wants to do that , they’re the majority, they can do that. What they won’t do is do it in secret.”
In the report, planning officer Rob O’Carroll recommends the proposal for approval, subject to conditions, including that the site should no longer be used for indoor bowls and should be returned to its former condition on or before three years from the date of consent.
He agrees the proposal is contrary to one planning policy, adding that Cheney Manor is identified as a key employment area where non-employment uses are generally restricted.
However, he says the change of use is supported by the National Planning Policy Framework and another policy of the local plan.
He said: “The proposal seeks permission for a temporary period of three years.
“This means that the premises will not be permanently lost for employment purposes.
“Given that there is a surplus of vacant premises within Cheney Manor Industrial Estate, it is therefore considered that the temporary loss of such a building would not undermine the employment function of the industrial estate.”
“Indeed it could be argued that bringing further premises into use could assist further business in-migration as the perception of the area improves.”