An extraordinary car wash

An inspector has declined to issue a lawful development certificate for a car wash at a garden centre in north London, finding that it was an “extraordinary” use (DCS Number 400-015-727).

The appellants contended that the use of an area of land as a car wash facility, within an overflow car parking area, was ancillary to the primary use of the site as a garden centre.

The inspector explained that the essential feature of ancillary uses is that there should be some functional relationship between the ancillary use and the primary use. Moreover, that functional relationship should be one that is normally found, so that a car wash may reasonably be considered ancillary or incidental to the use of land as a car service or repair garage, or a petrol filling station, as both uses concern the care and maintenance of motor vehicles. Similarly, where the primary use is a retail use for the sale of goods to visiting members of the public, an ancillary use has to be of a similar nature.

In the inspector’s view a car wash, with fixed structures and equipment on a discrete area of land, did not meet such criteria. He determined that it was not ordinarily incidental to the primary use, a matter considered in Harrods Ltd v Secretary of State for the Environment Transport and the Regions v Kensington and Chelsea RBC [2002], where it was found that extraordinary activities, even though subordinate to the lawful use, are excluded if their introduction amounts to a material change of use of the planning unit. The Harrods case, he explained, involved the use of the roof of the store as a landing site for the chairman’s helicopter. He considered that the car wash use was similarly “extraordinary”; it was not a use that would normally be expected to be found at a garden centre, unlike, say, a franchise for the sale of garden sheds and summerhouses.

Accordingly, the council’s refusal to grant a certificate of lawfulness was well-founded and the appeal failed.

The following DCP section is relevant: 4.323

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