22nd March 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Planning for the future


22nd March 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Planning for the future

In these strange and unprecedented times, many businesses are unable to continue to operate in their usual way. Whilst we do not know exactly what the future holds, or how long the current situation may last, this period offers time to plan ahead and consider future options for when normal service resumes.

Business owners may be looking to diversify their existing business or add extra facilities to increase future opportunities. Bakeries, for example, may be looking to accommodate an ongoing delivery service or cafes may be considering adding a shop. Larger premises may be investigating the use of their facilities for different services, or an increased range of events. Some businesses may also be looking to change the use of an existing building which is no longer viable.

Extending your premises or changing their use is likely to be considered development and as such planning consent may be required. Obtaining early planning advice on the type of permission required for your proposal will enable you to fully consider your options and give you time to prepare an application if required.

Certain types of development are considered to be ‘permitted development’ where permission is deemed to have been granted and development can be undertaken without the need to apply for full planning permission. There are a range of permitted development rights for business premises, including changes of use and in some cases alterations and extensions.

Permitted development

The Government has sought to provide immediate assistance to some of the businesses that have been forced to close. From Tuesday 24th March premises in the A3 use class (restaurants and cafes) and A4 use class (drinking establishments) are permitted a temporary change of use to the “provision of takeaway food”, without the need to apply for planning permission.

Permitted changes of use also exist for other types of business, who may wish to consider changing their offering or repurposing an existing building.

Shops for example, can change to a number of uses including financial or professional services, or cafes. Offices meanwhile, can change to storage and distribution or residential use. There are set criteria which must be met, and in many cases restrictions, for example with regard to the size of the premises, in order for the change to be considered permitted development. In some cases you must also apply to the Local Planning Authority prior to development, who will decide whether or not further approval is required (Prior Approval).

Permitted development rights also exist to alter or extend certain business premises. Within the curtilage of an existing industrial building or warehouse for example, the erection, extension or alteration of an industrial building or warehouse is permitted development. This is subject to certain criteria and restrictions including use, scale and materials.

Planning permission and planning advice

Some proposals, for example, converting an outbuilding to provide holiday accommodation, will fall outside of permitted development and will require planning consent through the submission of a planning application.

Planning advice will help to identify the relevant local plan policies and highlight the key issues to be considered as part of your proposal. It will also provide guidance on the types of information required to support your application, for example in respect of access and parking or impact to trees or ecology.

A planning consultant can also assist you in preparing and submitting your application and liaising with the Local Planning Authority. At this stage planning lawyers can also provide advice regarding planning legal agreements and planning conditions.

Further information regarding when planning permission is required can be found on the government website and through the planning portal:

Issues to be aware of

Business owners must be aware that their premises may be subject to existing planning conditions restricting their use. It is also worth noting that leases, mortgages and other agreements entered into may limit the use that a business premises can be put to. It will always be worth checking for any required permissions, before considering a change of use, or carrying out works. There may also be covenants on the property which restrict or limit certain development or uses. Licences and other permissions may also be required, for example in the case of food or entertainment.

For any further information on the above issues or for advice on planning more generally, please contact a member of the Planning team.

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