A bank has been refused permission to convert an empty Brighton shop into a new branch.
Metrobank, which describes itself as the first new high street bank for over a hundred years, hopes to open a branch at the top of North Street, by the junction with Western Road.
Green council leader Jason Kitcat supported the bank’s planning application which said that the new branch could create 20 to 30 jobs.
But Brighton and Hove City Council Planning Committee turned down the application because it would have led to the loss of offices above the empty shop.
The decision was made even though the tenant, Brighton Housing Trust, had said that it was happy to relocate to one of the many vacant offices in the area.
The vacant shoe and bag shop was, for many years, an American Express branch.
Councillor Kitcat emailed planning officials before the meeting. He said: “The reasons for refusal, apparently, are fairly theoretical regarding minor loss of retail and office space despite tenants and landlord supporting the changes.
“I understand we need to protect office space overall but this application will significantly improve the appearance of this space compared with the discount stores that have been there since Amex left.
“If these were the only reasons for refusal, could planners have not shown a bit more flexibility in favour of the wider economic development prize?
“I very much want to see that space improved and new competition in the local banking market.”
The committee refused the application because “planning permission will not be granted for the change of use of office premises to other purposes unless they are genuinely redundant and unsuitable for redevelopment, and cannot be readily converted to provide different types of office accommodation”.
A report to the committee said: “The aim of the policy is to retain well-located offices which continue to attract occupiers.
“Insufficient information has been provided to demonstrate that the current offices are genuinely redundant and all evidence available points to the contrary.”
The report to the planning committee, which met at Hove Town Hall yesterday afternoon (Wednesday 18 July), said that one person had objected to the application but gave no reason.
It said that the two occupiers of the premises, including BHT, had written in support of Metro Bank’s application.
According to the report, they said: “The layout of the first floor offices is not ideal, comprising various small offices.
“Relocation to open plan office accommodation elsewhere in the city would allow a more efficient and integrated operation.”
They added: “There is an oversupply of retail uses in Brighton evidenced by numerous estate agent boards advertising empty units.”