Comeuppance – a delightful old word which, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, derives from ‘come up’ in the sense of coming up before a judge or court for judgement.

It seems appropriate to say, then, that an appellant seeking prior approval under Part O of the GPDO for the residential conversion of a building in Essex which had been in unlawful use as a hostel (DCS Number 400-014-790) got their comeuppance when an inspector judged that it was the actual use rather than the lawful use on the relevant date which mattered.

In order to meet the requirements for permitted development as outlined in the GPDO, the building must have been in a use falling within Class B1(a) on the trigger date of 29 May 2013, the inspector recorded. The appellant acknowledged that the building was in use as a hostel on the that date. The inspector agreed with the appellant’s counsel that the lawful use of the building on that date was Class B1(a). She disagreed, however, that the unlawful hostel use should be disregarded for the purposes of the appeal. Whilst she appreciated the appellant’s argument that the permitted development right was introduced to allow the conversion of empty or underused offices to dwellings, it nonetheless remained that the lawful use was office use whereas the actual use had been as a hostel. Consequently, she concluded that the building was not in office use on the trigger date, as required by the GPDO.

The inspector concluded that the appeal did not meet the criteria set out in the GPDO. As such, it could not be considered to be permitted development for assessment under the prior approval process.

The following DCP section is relevant: 4.3423

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