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Council wins High Court challenge over decision by planning inspector not to include conditions restricting commercial uses

A planning inspector’s decision over conversion of a building in Manchester contained a legal error and must be quashed, the High Court has found.

The case concerned the change of use of a house to commercial units.

In Manchester City Council v Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government [2021] EWHC 858 (Admin) Mr Justice Julian Knowles said: “The inspector's decision can only properly be construed as rejecting the conditions as unnecessary because he considered that the deemed planning permission lawfully specified and limited the commercial uses of the property.’

This limitation though was “of no legal effect, and therefore the decision betrays an error of law and must be quashed”.

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Manchester City Council had issued an enforcement notice to Saif Chaudry and Prem Pathak because the property had without planning permission had its usage changed from a dwelling house (Class C3) to four commercial units each in other use classes.

The notice required the owners to cease the commercial use of the building of which Dr Prem is the freehold owner and Mr Chaudry operates Flywise Travel, one of the occupants.

They argued that the travel agency would not create an unacceptable impact on neighbouring amenity, and involved very little parking and waste compared with a use class A1 shop, which the council allowed on the ground floor of the neighbouring building.

Manchester said four separate businesses occupying the property amounted to an intensive use with unacceptable impact on local residents and the loss of a family sized house in breach of development plan policies.

The inspector allowed the appeal under s 174(2)(a) and quashed the notice.

Manchester argued that the inspector erred in refusing to grant planning permission subject to conditions it had suggested that would have limited the use of the building to the commercial activities identified in the notice.

The council said the inspector should have imposed its proposed conditions and not instead decided that “conditions that specify and limit the commercial uses of the property are ... unnecessary because the planning permission that has been granted specifies these uses”.

Counsel for the Secretary of State argued that the property was one planning unit in mixed use and so did not fall within the Use Classes Order and the GPD Order, and a proposed change of use of any of the units would require planning permission. The inspector had therefore been entitled to conclude that no conditions were necessary to achieve his intention of limiting the property's uses.

Julian Knowles J said: “I have come to the conclusion that…the way in which the inspector expressed his decision did not give legal effect to his intention to restrict the uses of the four units to those businesses specified in his grant of planning permission.”

Mark Smulian

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