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The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Property Clinic -

Con­tin­u­ing the se­ries in which our Clinic ex­perts pro­vide a guide to those thorny is­sues that can leave the un­wary out of pocket. This week, John Win­ter on se­cur­ing change of use: I want to de­velop a dis­used Vic­to­rian work­shop into res­i­den­tial prop­erty but have been told I need to ap­ply for “change of use”. How does this work, ex­actly? The Town And Coun­try Plan­ning (Use Classes) Or­der 1987 sets out the var­i­ous use classes for build­ings. How­ever, the pos­si­ble uses are so many, and the vari­a­tions so end­less, that it can­not be to­tally com­pre­hen­sive. To add to the con­fu­sion, while a “ma­te­rial change of use” re­quires plan­ning con­sent, what con­sti­tutes a “ma­te­rial change of use” is not de­fined by statute. Hence, much is de­cided on the ba­sis of case law. The re­sults can be odd: no per­mis­sion is needed to con­vert two dwellings into one as it is not a ma­te­rial change of use; whereas con­vert­ing one dwelling into two is a ma­te­rial change of use and hence re­quires per­mis­sion. How odd — are there any other loop­holes? Sec­tion 55(2) of the 1980 Town and Coun­try Plan­ning Act ex­cludes cer­tain uses from “de­vel­op­ment”; hence per­mis­sion is not re­quired. The most sig­nif­i­cant of th­ese ex­clu­sions is that any build­ing within the cur­tilage of a dwelling house, the use of which is an­cil­lary to the house, does not re­quire con­sent for change of use, al­though other con­sents may be re­quired. This cov­ers swim­ming pools, garages, stu­dios and play­rooms, but not granny houses.

An­other use ex­cluded from de­vel­op­ment by this Act is agri­cul­ture. You can farm where you like. But be­cause peo­ple have pushed this to the limit, court de­ci­sions have de­cided that cer­tain uses, such as keep­ing horses, or open­ing a farm shop, are not “‘agri­cul­ture”. Do you think I stand a good chance with my work­shop? South­ern Eng­land is short of houses, so con­ver­sion of non­do­mes­tic struc­tures into homes is of­ten wel­comed. But there are ex­cep­tions. Em­ploy­ment may mil­i­tate against con­ver­sion of in­dus­trial premises. .

Change of use is very much an in­di­vid­ual is­sue for each build­ing. There are few hard and fast rules. It is all part of the plan­ning process and ap­pli­ca­tions for change of use fol­low the same pro­ce­dure as other plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tions.

John Win­ter runs his own ar­chi­tec­tural prac­tice..

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