The bosses of a Brighton cash and carry warehouse have been told to stop sleeping at work.
They had converted a vacant office into a flat at Bestway Wholesale, in Crowhurst Road, Hollingbury, and planned to convert another.
But earlier this year they were told that this was not allowed by planning officials at Brighton and Hove City Council.
The refusal to grant planning permission has now been upheld by a planning inspector after Bestway appealed.
Planning consultant Karen Crowder-James said that Bestway was only trying to provide a place for the manager and deputy manager to stay.
She said: “The current managers were unable to find suitable and affordable accommodation following their relocation to this depot in 2011 when it originally opened.
“Given that there was surplus floorspace within the building, the company configured this floorspace into residential accommodation within which to house both managers.
“While this is an unusual proposal, it is no different in planning terms to the provision of manager’s accommodation above a public house, caretaker’s accommodation within school grounds or sleeping accommodation within a fire or ambulance station.”
The first flat was created more than four years ago in the old Sussex Stationers warehouse – previously one of the Kearney and Trecker Marwin (KTM) factories (earlier Kearney and Trecker – and, before that, CVA).
Planning enforcement officers took issue with the arrangement last Christmas so Bestway asked the council for planning permission to incorporate the flats.
The planning inspector who handled Bestway’s appeal, David Reed, visited the site just over six weeks ago.
In a decision letter he said: “The main issues are the effect of the proposal on the Hollingbury Industrial Estate and whether the flats would provide satisfactory living conditions for their occupiers.
“The proposal would make good use of surplus office space and would provide two permanent units of accommodation suitable for their use.”
But, he said: “Hollingbury Industrial Estate is one of the main employment sites in the city and is specifically protected by policy for business, manufacturing and warehouse uses.
“The policy makes no provision for residential uses, even in an ancillary capacity.
“It is therefore important to protect the role of the Hollingbury Industrial Estate and avoid changes that might prejudice its long-term future.
“It was clear from the site visit that the flats could potentially be affected by noise and disturbance arising from the operation of the warehouse.
“No mitigation measures are proposed and the reality is that potentially incompatible uses would be located in close proximity.
“While the flats would initially be occupied by the managers of the premises, this may not always be the case.
“And the expenditure involved in creating valuable residential flats within the building may lead in time to pressure for other, non-managerial occupiers, and even those unconnected with the business.
“The current occupiers of the warehouse would no doubt avoid any significant conflict between the business operation and the residents of the two flats but this cannot be presumed for all future occupiers and/or owners of the building who may have different objectives.
“The long-term business/employment use of the building may therefore be prejudiced by the introduction of two permanent and valuable flats within the building and this risk should be avoided.
“Illustrating the concern, both the operators and owners of the nearby fruit market building object to the proposal on the basis that they work throughout the night when vehicle movements and other activity might lead to complaints which may in time prejudice their business operation.
“The benefits of the proposal for the current occupiers are fully appreciated and currently disused office space would be utilised.
“However, the proposal would introduce a potentially incompatible long-term residential use into business premises on an industrial estate which forms an important part of the council’s employment strategy.
“Restricting occupation of the flats to employees of the related business may not avoid all complaints and may not be enforceable in the long term given their permanence and the level of investment involved.
“The council’s environmental health officer is also concerned that there may be localised land contamination due to past commercial use as an engineering works.
“In addition, due to its age, the building may incorporate asbestos-containing materials.
“Both of the proposed flats would be used as a main home and having two bedrooms would be likely to accommodate families with children.
“This means that the size and standard of accommodation that would be provided is important.
“The two flats would not provide satisfactory living conditions for their occupiers and it is not clear that the environmental conditions offered would be suitable for long-term residential occupation.”