I have had two cases in recent times where there has been applicant confusion over the primary use.
Case 1 concerns a property that had been in use as offices for 9 years, prior to that it was a hostel.
The applicant wanted to make the case that in accordance with Class O of the General Permitted Development Order the property had been offices at the right time and that they could rely on Class O to convert it to dwellings.
Case 2 concerns a property that had been vacant for 9 years and previously was used as storage ancillary to retail.
Again the applicant wanted to rely on their Part 3 rights for storage to resi as there was no upper limit on the number of flats.
Both cases were declined based on the fact that the respective uses within B1 and B8 were not lawful.
In both cases the due diligence done by the applicants was somewhat lacking.
There are three ways to establish a lawful use.
- By a planning permission
- By a permitted change under Part 3 of the GPDO
- By time (which in the case of the above was 10 years)
The primary planning use is always the last known lawful use of the building (unless abandoned and you really don’t want to go there!) Only one of the three triggers above can alter the primary use. There is no other mechanism by which you may claim an alternative use class for a property.
Whilst the time triggers provided in Class O of Part 3 (inter alia) say the use must be active it must also be lawful. The other part of these tests that is often ignored.
The moral of the story is proper due diligence. Check and recheck the authorised use before you buy otherwise you too could purchase a very expensive hostel for office money!
If in doubt check with a planning consultant or the Planning Authority, it only takes one phone call!