The minimum of formalities

An inspector has emphasised (DCS Number 400-033-827) that the prior approval process should be attended by the minimum of formalities.

The inspector allowed the appeal, against the refusal of prior approval for the conversion of a barn in Sussex to a Class D2 use under Part 3 Class R of the GPDO, finding that permission was deemed to be granted after the council had failed to determine the application within the requisite period.

The inspector related that the appellant had submitted his application to the council by email dated 6 September 2020, and paid the requisite fee the following day. The council claimed, however, that the appellant had not provided a plan appropriately identifying the site until 28 September 2020 because the plans submitted prior to that date did not include road names, nearby properties or a grid reference. In arguing its case the council referred to advice in the Planning Practice Guidance which states that a location plan should include various details to ensure the exact location of the site is clear. However, that advice, the inspector held, goes beyond what Paragraph W(2) of Part 3 requires to be submitted as part of an application for prior approval. 

Both main parties referred to Murrell v SSCLG [2010] where it was held that the prior approval procedure is attended by the minimum of formalities and that where a valid application is submitted the statutory period for the consideration of the application is not paused or restarted if the council seeks further information or if the applicant submits a new application form or further plans. The inspector was satisfied that the plans submitted on 6 September 2020 indicated the site and showed the proposed development. The exact location of the site was clear from the plans submitted on that date. The appellant submitted the necessary details required by Paragraph W(2) on 6 September 2020 and the requisite fee was paid on 7 September 2020 within the council’s normal working hours, which completed the application process. 

The 56-day period that the council had to notify the appellant that prior approval was required therefore commenced on 8 September 2020, the inspector determined, and prior approval was deemed to be granted on 3 November 2020. An additional application form and additional plans submitted by the appellant between 7 and 28 September 2020 did not affect this, nor did the council’s decision notice dated 23 November 2020.

The costs of the appeal proceedings were awarded against the council, the inspector finding that it had left the applicant with few options to confirm prior approval was deemed to have been granted.

The permitted development classes are set out at section 4.342 of DCP Online.