Is there a loophole in Class P?

Prior approval for the conversion of two floors of a warehouse in Sussex to nine flats has been turned down at appeal, an inspector finding that the size of the building would exceed the 500 sqm floor space limitation set out in Schedule 2, Part 3, Class P of the GPDO (DCS Number 400-014-157). Whilst the inspector found that external walls must be included in calculations of floor space under this class there appears, nonetheless, to be an unresolved question arising from the absence of reference to cumulative maximum floor space figures.

The appellants gave the total floor space of the building as 489 sqm, based on estimating the internal floor area from scaled layout drawings excluding the external walls. The inspector found it notable that Class P is the only class in Part 3 which refers to ‘gross floor space’ rather than simply ‘floor space’. She recorded, however, that ‘gross floor space’ is not defined. To her mind the use of the word ‘gross’ suggested that the walls should be included in any measurements of the building, particularly in the absence of any reference to cumulative floor space which appears in connection with other classes of development. If this approach were adopted there would be no doubt that the gross floor space figure would significantly exceed the 500 sqm threshold, she concluded.

The appellants were not giving up without a fight, however, and suggested that, in the absence of reference to cumulative maximum floor space figures under Class P, prior approval for the change of use could be sought under two separate applications, one for each floor. This would ensure that the floor space limit would not be exceeded on either floor. “Whilst that may or may not be the case” said the inspector, “the proposal would have to be a significantly different layout to the appeal scheme”. No sooner said than drafted, we suspect.

The following DCP section is relevant: 4.3423

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