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    New premises? Consider change of use pitfalls

    Businesses relocating or acquiring new premises may need to obtain planning permission for change of use, cautions Neil Holly from the planning team at Humphreys & Co., Solicitors.

    Uses specified in agents’ particulars or in leases may not always accurately reflect the uses to which the property can lawfully be put under the laws of planning control.

    For example, businesses acquiring former retail premises and looking to use them for other purposes may find that planning permission is required and could find themselves up against local Council planning policies designed to protect retail frontages.

    Under planning laws certain changes of use can often be carried out without the need to obtain formal planning permission. However, this depends upon the change of use proposed.

    In other cases, for example those involving intensification of an existing use, mixed uses or cessation of existing uses, the question of whether there has been a material change of use at all – so as to engage the need to apply for planning permission – can be a difficult and technical question.

    The good news is that those requiring planning permission may, in light of recent changes in Government planning policy, find local planning departments more receptive to entertaining planning applications, particularly if the application will ensure the economic use of the premises or generate employment.

    Similarly, the owners of marginal or surplus commercial premises may find greater opportunities for commercial to residential use changes.

    Obtaining planning advice at an early stage can help avoid headaches down the line. Those looking to apply for permission may find that professional planning input can expedite their application and enhance their prospects of success. For those already in difficulties with the local planning office, or who consider they might have issues as regards the lawfulness of their use, early professional planning input could save significant long term cost and inconvenience.

    Planning enforcement action could require the cessation of a particular use (which does not have planning permission), resulting in loss of trade and causing a business to incur substantial relocation costs.

    Humphreys & Co.’s planning team is recognised by the Legal 500 as “formidable” (2012 guide) and as having “excellent industry knowledge” (2011 guide). The team frequently advises on changes of use, including submitting planning applications, making appeals and advising on enforcement issues. Contact us on 0117 929 2662 or email

    Humphreys & Co. is a long-established Bristol law firm with expertise in planning and other commercial property matters. Other commercial legal work done includes intellectual property, litigation, business sales and employment law. Private client work includes residential property, occupational disease litigation, and contentious probate work.

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