What’s the Use? Your Next Commercial Property Move

January 16, 2024

By Elin Davies

For anyone that is contemplating buying a property or negotiating a lease, you should always check whether the use you are intending for the property is the same as the current use. If you are intending to change the use– you might need to obtain consent from the planning authority first.

A recent decision of the Planning Inspectorate highlights the need to identify correctly the authorised planning use of a property and whether a change in authorised planning use is required.

Use classes

Legislation sets out different use classes, which groups uses of land into different classes. For example, the sale of food and drink for consumption on the premises. It is important to know that since September 2020, the use classes have been different in England and Wales.

When does a change of use need planning permission?

When there is a material change of use of land, planning permission is likely to be needed to approve the change. A change of use is material depending on its impact on the use of the land. It is considered on a case-by-case basis by looking at the circumstances. An example is changing a single dwelling house into two.

Changes of use which fall within the same use class, or changes of use which are automatically allowed, generally, are likely to not require planning permission.

An example of why this is important

A recent appeal decision of the Planning Inspectorate in England considered whether the use of a property as a canine hydrotherapy centre fell within Class E or was a sui generis use. The property owner wanted the property to be used as a dwellinghouse (Class C3), which would not require planning permission if the previous use as a canine hydrotherapy centre fell within Class E as the change of use would be automatically allowed.

It was argued before the Planning Inspectorate that clinics, health centres, indoor sport centres all fall within Class E and that there is no distinction that the uses are exclusive to humans only. In addition, it was stated that the former use was open to visiting members of the public.

The decision of the Planning Inspectorate was that the previous use as a canine hydrotherapy centre fell within Class E rather than sui generis, meaning no planning permission was necessary for the change of use to a dwellinghouse.

What should businesses do when preparing to acquire commercial property?

It is important to take legal and planning advice from the earliest stage so that you know what planning consents might be needed for your planned use of the property, and whether this might affect the viability and timing of your transaction.

If you have any queries relating to property planning, or would like to speak to a commercial property expert, please contact Elin Davies, on 01248 661202 or edavies@darwingray.com for a free initial chat to see how we can help you.

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