Lack of Precision Opens Path for Change of Use of Garden Centre

August 21, 2013

Lack of Precision Opens Path for Change of Use of Garden Centre

When a business owner applied for planning permission for a garden centre, the local authority put a condition on the planning permission that details of the goods to be sold had to be approved by it before trade commenced.

The business owner complied with that demand by supplying a list of goods to be sold. He received no response from the council, however.

Later, the owner applied for a certificate of lawful use as retail premises under Use Class A1 (general retail premises) under the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987.

The council opposed the application, claiming that its original restriction on the goods sold meant that the Use Classes Order was irrelevant.

The court held that if a restriction is to be applied in circumstances such as this, it must be clear and unambiguous. The council had not said that only the described goods could be sold and there was no implication that the owner was restricted for all time to selling goods on the supplied list. In addition, if the council had intended that the Use Classes Order should not apply, it could and should have said so.

Accordingly, a certificate allowing Class A1 use was granted.

Planning requirements are not always as tightly worded as they might be and lack of precision on the part of the planning authority may give property owners room for manoeuvre over site use.