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Planning Issues

Planning can create issues for occupiers when trying to undertake premises projects. The two basic areas where issues may arise are:

Alterations to the existing structure of the building

What is the dispute and when might the dispute arise?

Planning disputes over alterations result from alterations carried out to your building which the Local Planning Authority considers should have received an application for planning permission.

The potential cost of failing to resolve a dispute can be severe. A Local Planning Authority may issue a planning enforcement notice which will contain the steps required by the LPA to be taken to remedy the breach of planning control and the steps to be taken either to restore the land to its condition before the development took place, or to secure compliance with any planning conditions or limitations. Contravention of a planning enforcement notice is an offence with the offender liable upon summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £20,000 or, upon conviction by indictment, to an unlimited fine.

GOLDEN RULE: Always seek advice from your Local Planning Department BEFORE undertaking any major works to a property. These might affect its external appearance, its floor area, its existing turning or parking arrangements or will build within 5m of the land boundary. Further restrictions may apply if you are based in a listed building or a conservation area. Your Local Planning Department will be able to give you information on your property, such as whether it is listed or in a conservation area, as well as an indicative decision as to whether you will need to apply for planning. This can save a lot of time and money as the project progresses.

What to do if a dispute occurs?

If you have already undertaken the work and a dispute arises as a result, you must take action to either rectify the issue or argue your case. For detailed support with a planning dispute, we would recommend contacting Planning Aid, who provide specialist support around planning issues. However some general points:

•    Gather all relevant documentation – Gather all the documentation regarding the works, including any correspondence or notes of discussions with the planning department, photos and plans before and after works, evidence of consideration of planning issues. This will all help you to establish what, if any arguments, you can put forward to defend the works.

•    Seek professional support – Planning is a complex issue, and disputes can result in costly re-instatement works. Seek support from a professional to give you advice as to whether you have any room to argue your case. Organisations such as Planning Aid provide support to small organisations with planning issues. Professionals such as planning consultants, an architect or a solicitor with experience of planning law may also be able to help.

•    Contact your Local Planning Department – Contact your local planning officer and discuss the extent of the works and the reason why they consider planning may be required. Try to put forward your reasons for undertaking the development and why you feel permission is not required. Remember planning officers enforce planning law and therefore may not be swayed by social or business arguments. If you agree that the works should have required planning permission, discuss your options. There is potential to apply for retrospective planning permission in some cases, so see if this might be an option. Make sure you have a clear idea of your case and take advice from someone with planning experience before entering negotiations with the Local Planning Authority

Alterations to the use of the building

What is the dispute and when might the dispute arise?

Your premises have a specific use class designated to it by the local planning authority. This use class is defined within the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987.  Click here to view a copy of the use class orders.

You are only permitted to use the premises in a way that falls within its designated use. If the planning authority believes that your use does not fall within the use class designated for the building, they will contact you to attempt to re-impose the previous use.

What to do if a dispute occurs?

Definitions for use classes can be flexible, therefore try to take steps to assess whether your use really does fall outside its planning class:

•    Discuss and negotiate with the planning department. Any change of use that broadly came within the use class definition for your premises will not require planning permission.

•    Seek planning permission for change of use. Make a formal application to your local planning department for a change of use. Forms to make this application will be available from your local planning authority, usually online. Be aware you may also need permission from your landlord to change the use of the premises. This will be set out in your lease.

•    Seek professional support. As with alterations to the property, use class disputes can be complex. Professional support can provide technical support and advice on arguing your case which may prove invaluable. Organisations such as Planning Aid provide support to small organisations with planning issues. Planning consultants or solicitors will also be able to assist.


The Foundation would like to thank Russell Cooke LLP for their contribution to this Property Advice section of the website.