PLANS to convert the space above a High Street department store in Maldon into flats have been thrown out after an inspector found evidence of non-viable living spaces.

The property, above the QD store in Maldon, would have become four two-bed four-person flats, and one three-bed six-person flat.

However, the plans have now been refused after an inspector visit.

The appeal was made by Mr Aslam, from Eclipse Property, against the decision of Maldon Council, which refused the ‘change of use’ of the first and second floors from commercial, business and service to residential use.

The inspector said:  “At first-floor level, the works comprise little more than the installation of studwork frames and some utility pipework and channels”.

“The works on this floor are clearly unfinished and I find the first-floor level of the building would plainly not offer viable facilities for living.”

However, the inspector did find in one second-floor fat that the space “was in reasonably good order” with the “outstanding work likely to be limited to little more than minor finishing works or decoration”.

The property was also part of an enforcement investigation in January and February 2023 where the council was provided copies of photographs stamped January 25, 2023 – before the first residential application was made on June 5, 2023.

The photographs showed beds within rooms on the second floor with “some with sheets and blankets on",  which suggested, "they were being used for sleeping”.

Also seen in the photographs were furniture including tables and chairs, electronic equipment including screens, remote controls, and a stereo.

Further personal effects including suitcases, bags, shoes and what appear to be toiletries and medication were photographed.

The inspector said: “Despite their initial assertions that there has been no habitation of either floor and that the second-floor was used by contractors, the appellant has not offered any plausible alternative account to explain the apparent residential occupation shown in the photographs.”

The report concluded the requirement for the developer to apply to the local planning authority for a determination prior to change was not met.

It appeared “matter of fact”  the second floor had been converted already to residential use – meaning the appeal was dismissed.