Tricky Use Class Issue (D1/E or F1)?

Tricky Use Class Issue (D1/E or F1)?

11:21 AM, 19th May 2022, About a month ago 8

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Can anyone please advise on this? We have had our offer accepted on a little church hall which is being sold by the trustees. It has been used as a parent and toddler group for about 16 years and is only used for 90 minutes per week. No religious worship takes place there.

The vendors, estate agent and EPC assessor all say it was Use Class D1 and therefore would now be Use Class E so we could use it as an office. However, after dozens of calls and emails, the council has come back saying “This has been reviewed by a Planning Officer who has stated that the lawful use of the building is a Church Hall (Use Class F1) and it appears that the proposed use is an office (Use Class E). Planning permission is required for this change of use”.

Looking at the use class info online, the closest thing I can find for a parent and toddler group would be a creche which was use class D1, now E but I don’t know whether Use Class is defined by its current or historic use or some other detail.

Obviously, we won’t buy it if we can’t use it as an office and the vendor won’t apply for a change of use.

Is it worth trying to argue with the council or should we risk applying for planning permission (or pre-planning advice) in advance of the purchase?

However, if a change of use is approved, the vendors could pull out of the sale and put it back on the market for a higher amount as it would then be more attractive to other buyers.

Any advice or suggestions would be most welcome.

Heather



Comments

Ian Narbeth View Profile

18:45 PM, 19th May 2022, About a month ago

Heather
I suggest you ask a planning law specialist. I can put you in touch with someone if you contact me. 020 7822 1616.
Ian

CMS

6:13 AM, 20th May 2022, About a month ago

Hi, i don't know how desperate you need to buy and the seller needs to sell but in situations like this it looks to me as though the seller is not going to be able to sell without some form of planning permission so they may as well wait for you to get this sorted.

It looks to me as though you have a decent chance of getting a certificate of lawfulness but you will need the seller to help with evidence etc.

The best way to deal with this situation is likely to be either a condition contract or an option ('CC/O') granted to you rather than a sale contract. The CC/O would give you a certain amount of time to get a certificate of lawfulness and if you get it by that date you complete the purchase if you dont you either agree an extension or both walk away.

Either way dealing with it in this fashion means that your only real risk is the fee for the application for the certificate.

I hope this helps. If you need anything more on this - comment and let e have your email and i will message you

DSR

8:49 AM, 20th May 2022, About a month ago

unfortunately this is the risk you take although the pre planning advice if sought is SUPPOSED to be an indicator of the potential for (in this case ) a change of use.
Without actual planning permission the seller cant sell saying it has so in reality even if the Council said a high likelihood, you still have to take a chance and the buyer cant up the price as this is not guaranteed either.

Charles above seems to have a solution..

The best way to deal with this situation is likely to be either a condition contract or an option ('CC/O') granted to you rather than a sale contract. The CC/O would give you a certain amount of time to get a certificate of lawfulness and if you get it by that date you complete the purchase if you dont you either agree an extension or both walk away.

Ian Narbeth View Profile

10:06 AM, 20th May 2022, About a month ago

I have written about RPI and CPI increases for commercial rents here (EGi subscription needed).

An issue which arises with ASTs is that most are for 12 months or less. If the tenant can serve notice and leave, the rent increase may only operate for a short time. Therefore it is only those tenants with longer leases who might be bound by the review.
As others have mentioned "the rent increase must be fair and realistic, which means in line with average local rents". Linking it to RPI or CPI does not necessarily do that. Paradoxically it might limit the rent increase if market rents in your area rise faster than general inflation.

Heather G.

10:49 AM, 20th May 2022, About a month ago

Reply to the comment left by Ian Narbeth at 20/05/2022 - 10:06
Hi Ian,
Thanks for your initial comment with your number, I'll give you a call.
I think your second comment might have been intended for a different thread.
Heather.

Ian Narbeth View Profile

11:10 AM, 20th May 2022, About a month ago

Reply to the comment left by Heather G. at 20/05/2022 - 10:49
Thanks. Yes it was. Oops. Problem with having two tabs open at same time!

Heather G.

11:43 AM, 20th May 2022, About a month ago

Reply to the comment left by charles stevens at 20/05/2022 - 06:13
Thank you very much Charles. If you could email me on Heather@mega3.tv we'd be most grateful.

Andrew

13:31 PM, 20th May 2022, About a month ago

Great question and had a similar situation on a building we purchased.

First thing is evidence - your evidence is a toddler group. Council will see this building therefore as a community asset which is an F1 - this is a protected planning class and extremely difficult to get buildings changed - I can show you buildings which have been refused for over 20 years.

In my case the council had given planning for a training co, but they had moved out and had been run as a recruitment co for 5 years. My evidence of leases, affidavit, prior owner evidence formed our case to over turn the councils view it was a training use.

Doesnt matter what paperwork says its what the actual use is and proving that use with evidence and witness statements

You can only prove use as a toddler group therefore community asset therefore F1

Sadly I have a client who purchased a similar building which was church and he now has a massive headache as the council have refused at every turn a change of use.

There are easy properties - walk away from this one or be prepared for over 20 year wait

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