Now that laundrettes are an endangered species it seems a shame that planning legislation does little to protect the small number remaining.
A recent appeal case (DCS Number 400-018-997) shows just how easy it is to gain consent for residential conversion. This case concerns a prior approval application under Schedule 2, Part 3, Class M of the GPDO for conversion of a former laundrette in east Sussex to a flat. The inspector acknowledged that there was common thought amongst local residents that the laundrette had been a valued service, popular with young and old alike. The appellant explained, however, that it had closed in October 2017, and maintained that the costs of equipment modification and refurbishment works to the premises brought into doubt whether it would re-open. The inspector considered that this position had a significant bearing on the case as, should the impact of the change of use on the local laundrette service be seen as particularly undesirable, the GPDO stipulates that this is only a consideration where there is a reasonable prospect of the service being provided. In addition, whilst he had found that the loss of the laundrette would be felt locally, he also accepted that customers would be able to reach an alternative facility by bus. He concluded that the appeal should be allowed.
Clearly, the GPDO is likely to be relatively ineffective in protecting existing laundrettes since the lesson here is to remove any fittings and equipment before applying for prior approval for residential conversion.
Further information concerning Class M can be found at section 4.3423 of DCP Online.