Friday, 18 October 2013
Can conditions preclude Permitted Development?
The immediate answer to this question is that of course they can, and such conditions are quite common. They are usually along the lines that “Notwithstanding [the GPDO – variously referred to] no development shall take place under Part 1, Classes A or E [etc. etc.]” (or as the case may be). Some conditions even exclude all types of PD under the whole of Parts 1 and 2. There is no doubt that if the condition is worded with sufficient precision (and most are) the type of permitted development specified by the condition cannot be carried out, and a planning permission would have to be sought instead. There must, of course, be an objective justification for such a condition, and I have come across rather too many examples of these conditions which were imposed without any such justification. The remedy in such a case is an application under section 73 (and, if necessary, an appeal against a refusal to remove the condition). I have even won costs against the LPA in such appeals.
However, I have recently been asked by a correspondent about the effect of a rather differently worded condition in relation to the recently introduced right to convert an office (Use Class B1(a)) to residential use. In this case, a duly implemented planning permission which had authorised a change of use of premises to office use contained a condition that read: “The premises shall be used as an office (Use Class B1a) and for no other purpose (including any other purpose in Class B of the Schedule to the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 or in any amendment thereof).” Does this preclude a change of use to Use Class C3 under the new GPDO provisions (subject to the qualifying criteria and compliance with the prior approval procedure)?
At first sight, it appeared to me that this condition does have that effect – if you simply take the words : “The premises shall be used as an office (Use Class B1a) and for no other purpose. But second thoughts suggested otherwise. It seems to me that this condition does not (and cannot) preclude an application for planning permission for a further change of use. It was designed solely to prevent the use being changed within Use Class B1 in reliance on the terms of section 55(2)(f) of the 1990 Act (whereby such a change of use within the same use class would not constitute development within the meaning of the Act). Any other change of use, to a use outside the scope of Class B1, would have been development in any event, and would have required planning permission. Thus, if planning permission were to be granted for such a further change of use, it would supersede the previous permission (and its conditions). What Part 3 of the Second Schedule to the GPDO does is exactly the same; it grants planning permission (subject to certain requirements being met) for a further change of use. The condition in question cannot therefore have the effect of precluding this.
There are several reasons for reaching this conclusion. First, the condition referred specifically to the Use Classes Order and contained no reference at all to the GPDO. I do not consider that the quoted wording could be stretched to include the GPDO or to be construed so as to do so. Furthermore, if permitted development was intended to be precluded by this condition, this should have been stated in clear terms. It is well settled law that conditions must be clear in their intention and effect; their purpose cannot be implied. Permitted Development cannot be precluded by implication. If an LPA wishes to preclude PD, it must word the condition in such a way as expressly to remove specific PD rights.
I mentioned above that if planning permission were to be granted for a further change of use, it would supersede the previous permission (and its conditions). As I have pointed out, what the GPDO does is to grant planning permission for a further change of use. This is the primary reason for my taking the view that this condition in the previous permission does not preclude the further change of use now authorised by Part 3. For the same reason, I do not consider that the condition would prevent the other change of use permitted by Part 3 (subject to a floorspace limitation) from B1 to B8.
I recall that there used to be some doubt as to whether development carried out as permitted development would be free of conditions under an existing planning permission. The conclusion (although I can’t recall offhand the relevant authority for this) was that the conditions continued to apply to the property as a whole. However, I don’t see that rule as being applicable in this context, where planning permission is given by the GPDO for an entirely different use of the property, at least so far as concerns conditions that were specifically addressed to the actual use of the property. Where the GPDO authorises a change of use under Part 3, it seems to me that any such conditions attached to the earlier permission would no longer apply. The position as regards other conditions (for example as regards car parking) may, however, be more doubtful.
No doubt there are those who would take a different view, and I cannot pretend that the answer I have given above to the question that was posed to me is the last word on this subject. But for what it’s worth, and subject to any contrary statutory or judicial authority that might be brought to my attention, I don’t believe that a condition like the one quoted above would preclude a change of use under the GPDO.
UPDATE: In case anyone didn’t see Steve Jupp’s helpful contribution to this discussion among the comments posted below this item, I thought it might be useful to follow him in drawing attention to paragraph 86 of Circular 11/95 (recently cancelled, I know, but in my view the statements it contained are still relevant and should continue to be applied). This paragraph stated in clear terms that “a general condition which restricts the use of land does not remove permitted development rights for that use unless the condition specifically removes those rights as well.” Q.E.D.
NOTE: This topic is more fully discussed in the author’s new book - ”A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO PERMITTED CHANGES OF USE” published by Bath Publishing in October 2015. You can order your copy by clicking on the link on the left-hand sidebar of this page.
© MARTIN H GOODALL