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Do you need planning permission to work from home?

Sponsored feature | Brendon Lee, solicitor, HCR Hewitsons

Brendon Lee, HCR Hewitsons (53329524)
Brendon Lee, HCR Hewitsons (53329524)

The pandemic has led to an increased interest in people starting a home business. Whether that is an e-commerce business or a business with visiting clients, does it need planning permission?

A recent case has clarified the factors that determine when planning permission is needed for a home business; it focused on a claimant who operated a personal training business at his home in part of an outbuilding in the garden.

The outbuilding contained gym equipment including a treadmill, cross-trainer, weights, balls, bench, and punch bag. The gym was used by him and his family and friends, as well as paying clients. The personal training business operated six days a week, Tuesday to Sunday, with up to 38 clients a week, arriving and leaving between 6am and 9.30pm on most weekdays.

He argued that the business was incidental to his residential use of the house and so did not need planning permission but had applied for a lawful development certificate to confirm his home business was lawful. The council, and then a planning inspector on appeal, refused that application, finding that planning permission was needed - he challenged that decision.

The key here is whether there is a material change of use of the land and, if so, whether it is ‘incidental’ to the enjoyment of the house. These questions are a matter of planning judgement for the decision maker, whether the local planning authority or an inspector on appeal, to be judged on the facts, scale and degree of the home business.

The court clarified that the phrase “incidental to” is not simply a question of whether the use is not dominant, but whether at all times the house is used as a residence, not as anything else. They also stated that the use of the outbuilding in question is no more than ancillary to that use as a home.

Again, it is a question of the facts, scale and degree of the home business. So, activities initially incidental to the use of the main dwelling house may grow in scale and so change the nature of the relationship between home and business.

Issues such as location, the nature of the business and any disturbance to neighbours are all relevant.

Generally, it is accepted that the use of one room in a home as an office or study, even though it has commercial aspects, could still be regarded as incidental to the enjoyment of the house. In this case, the court ruled that the use of the outbuilding at that level was beyond incidental or ancillary and that planning permission was needed.

Check if you need planning permission before you start a home business, especially if you have a large number of visiting clients or operate the business full-time. Ask your local planning authority or obtain expert planning advice from a solicitor or planning consultant.

Contact Brendon Lee on blee@hcrlaw.com or 07467 719066.

See more at hcrlaw.com.

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