A couple of appeal decisions have been published recently which confirm that it is possible to obtain in principle approvals for changes of use under the GPDO.
In (DCS Number 400-012-283) the council had refused prior approval for the change of use of a barn to a dwelling on the grounds that insufficient information had been provided. The inspector recorded that Schedule 2, Part 3, Class Q indicates that development is permitted consisting of
(a) a change of use of a building and any land within its curtilage from a use as an agricultural building to a use falling within Class C3 (dwellinghouses) of the Schedule to the Use Classes Order; and (b) building operations reasonably necessary to convert the building referred to in paragraph (a) to a use falling within Class C3 (dwellinghouses) of that Schedule.
The council argued that Class Q (a) and (b) are to be read as one and that physical alterations to the building would need to be made to provide suitable accommodation for the barn to be used as a dwelling. The inspector acknowledged that the building was a pole barn with a dirt floor and was open at one end to allow vehicles in and out. Nevertheless, she pointed out that Class Q.2 (Conditions) indicates that an applicant can apply for the change of use and conversion works at the same time or for the change of use only. An application for prior approval for change of use under Class Q (a) can be made in isolation, she ruled.
In (DCS Number 400-012-284) prior approval had been refused for the change of use of a glasshouse to a flexible commercial use (namely an hotel) under Class R of Part 3, Schedule 2 of the GPDO. The application had been refused by the council because it was not satisfied that the physical works required to implement the change of use were building works reasonably necessary to convert the building. The inspector pointed out, however, that the developers had made it clear that they were seeking only to establish the acceptability in principle of the change of use. Accordingly, she found no reason to refuse the application on the grounds set out by the council, or any other grounds.
Effectively, then, it is possible to gain outline prior approval, just as it is possible to gain outline planning permission. Whilst the utility of such a facility will be obvious to readers, the Blog is not going to resile from querying whether the prior approval regime has made the system any simpler. Has it? Has it really?
The following DCP chapter is relevant: 4.3423