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Commercial Planning Permission: What you Need to Know

Obtaining commercial planning permission can be a complex and lengthy undertaking, requiring in-depth knowledge of the applicable laws and policies.  The planning permission for commercial property has requirements for warehouses and other industrial buildings vary considerably from those of wind turbines, retail establishments, inner-city office buildings, and other types of commercial buildings.  In this article, we will explore some of the planning considerations for commercial building projects, the primary laws and regulations which apply, and how to seek planning permission.

11 March 2020
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Do I need planning permission for commercial property?

As defined by the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (TCPA 1990), planning permission is necessary for the "carrying out of any development on land".  ‘Development’ encompasses the "carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under the land or the making of any material change in the use of any buildings or other land".  This does not mean, however, that planning permission is necessary for all commercial property projects.

As defined by the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (TCPA 1990), planning permission is necessary for the "carrying out of any development on land".  ‘Development’ encompasses the "carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under the land or the making of any material change in the use of any buildings or other land".  This does not mean, however, that planning permission is necessary for all commercial property projects.

Under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015, commercial developments may be able to proceed under permitted development rights and hence will not need planning permission.  For example, in the case of a new commercial industrial building, if the intended structure is over 5 metres in height or 200 square metres in terms of floor space, planning permission would be required, otherwise permitted development rights may be used.

In most cases, however, you will need both planning permission and building regulation approval.  Commercial planning permission will be required if you are seeking to 

  • Construct, extend, redevelop, or renovate a commercial building, or;
  • Changing the use of buildings – e.g. from residential to commercial, commercial to residential.

Depending on the class of building, planning permission may only be granted if the intended structure will be in an area set aside by local authorities for that specific purpose.  For example, local authorities designate specific areas for retail development within their local policies.

Commercial planning permission & working from home?

If you work from home and are considering extending or modifying your property for business purposes (e.g. to create an office space), you may need commercial planning permission if you intend to have employees working in the new space, the nature of the business use means your neighbours may be disturbed, or if you will have more clients or visitors.

If you are unsure if you need planning permission, your local authority planning department (LPA) may provide informal advice on the type of permission you will require.  You may also consider submitting a ‘pre-application’ to your local planning team to understand better how planning policies and other requirements may affect your project, and hence reduce the potential of your planning application being submitted incorrectly.

Outline planning consent vs full planning consent

Outline planning consent is used by developers to understand if the size and type of development will be accepted.  However, it will not be granted to allow a change of use.  Once outline permission is granted, work cannot commence until ‘reserved matters’ are approved.  These may include outstanding issues relating to access, size, layout, or appearance, which need to be resolved before full permission can be granted.

Full planning permission, which requires a more extensive submission compared to outline planning permission, then allows building work to commence.  

How long does commercial planning permission last for?

Full planning permission is typically granted on the proviso that building starts within a set timescale of three years in England, and five years in Wales.  That said, local planning authorities can, at their own discretion, provide planning permission for any duration they deem necessary.  If outline planning permission has been granted, but reserved matters still require approval, these must be resolved within three years (in England and Wales).

If building work does not commence before the full permission expires, then new planning permission for commercial property must be sought.  In some cases, gaining approval after permission has lapsed may be more difficult than when initially given, due to any new changes to planning law which have occurred in the meantime.
 

Can changes be made to commercial planning permission once granted?

This depends.  Under section 96A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, local planning authorities may authorise non-material changes.  To make this decision, the LPA “must have regard to the effect of the change, together with any previous changes made”.  Material changes include large changes in the scale of the development or its design or siting.  
Minor changes may, on the other hand, be permitted using a Section 73 application for minor material amendments.  

Minor amendments are those which are “likely to include any amendment where its scale and/or nature results in a development which is not substantially different from the one which has been approved.”  

So Planning Permission for commercial property - What do you need to know?
 

Securing planning permission for commercial ventures requires expertise and patience.  By taking the time to understand the planning requirements which relate to your specific project, you can ensure that your submitted plans fulfil every requirement.  This is best undertaken from the outset with the guidance and ongoing support of a specialist in commercial planning rules and laws.  Not only will this ensure you avoid wasted time and cost, but it will also put your commercial venture on the best possible foundations.
 

Guillaumes LLP are leading solicitors in Weybridge, Surrey.  We have a highly experienced team of commercial property lawyers who can assist with your commercial property matter. Whether you're looking for solicitors for landlords, conveyancing solicitors in Surrey, os require a property dispute lawyer to settle a dispute, we can help. To make an appointment, please call us on 01932 840 111 or contact us today.