Dealing with planning problems
Issues relating to authorised planning use should in theory be something that has been addressed at the time of acquiring the property. In reality, issues may be overlooked, or there may be a change in the activity at or project that is to be delivered from the property.
- It is advisable in any event to check with the local planning authority and obtain copies of any conditional planning permissions and any permissions relating to change of use.
- It is also sensible to check with the landlord whether any planning conditions that you discover have been complied with.
- However you should also check what the most recent use of the property has been and for how long because a previous authorised planning use may been abandoned (so that there is perhaps no current authorised use) or a previous authorised use of the property may no longer be enforceable by the planning authority (generally after a four year period for changes to residential use or ten years for other changes of use or compliance with planning conditions).
- You may in some circumstances be prepared to take the risk of uncertainty or even a clear lack of planning consent or authority with regard to what you are doing. In practice, although a planning authority may have the right to take enforcement action against unauthorised use, they may not owing to the fact they do not think it is worth their while or do not have the resources to do so. Community uses, for example, are often welcomed at a political level and if the planning authority was to use its resources unnecessarily to terminate such use, there might be some criticism from a number of quarters. However, such a result is not unthinkable, especially where a community centre attracts a number of visitors that neighbouring owners perceive as a nuisance, resulting in complaints to the planning authority.
- One cure for planning problems is to make a planning application for an alternative authorised use.
- Another alternative where there are doubts as to the real authorised planning use is to proceed regardless, but to obtain insurance if one of the commercial title insurers is prepared to cover the risk.
- When you are taking a lease, if there is a lack of authorised use or uncertainty as to the planning position you may be able to agree with the landlord that you will have a right to break the lease if the local planning authority takes enforcement action. The risk is then reduced to the need to find alternative premises, and the cost of moving, changing address details etc.