Flats Development Founders on Planning Condition Rock

Conditions attached to planning permissions can be highly restrictive and can even prevent changes of use that would otherwise be automatically permitted. The Court of Appeal made that point in scotching a developer’s hopes of converting an office block into 127 studio flats.

The block dated from the 1980s and, after over 30 percent of its offices fell vacant, the developer proposed to subdivide the building into flats. That change of use would normally have been permitted by the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 and would not have required planning consent.

However, a planning condition that had been imposed in 2005 restricted the block’s use solely to business purposes. In reliance on that condition, the local authority refused to grant the developer a certificate of lawful development and that decision was subsequently upheld first by a government planning inspector and then by the High Court.

In dismissing the developer’s challenge to the latter decision, the Court of Appeal noted that, as a matter of law, the ability to rely upon the Order can be precluded by a planning condition. On a true interpretation of the condition, it had that effect and full planning consent was thus required for the proposed change of use.