Saturday, 19 October 2013

Do I need Planning Permission to work from home?

Do I need planning permission to work from home?
The value of working from home is in largely in its simplicity.  You don't need to find separate business premises.  You don't need to commute.  And sometimes you don't even have to get out of your pyjamas to go to work. However, one thing you will need to do is consider whether you will need planning permission.

What is planning permission?
The Town and Country Planning Act 1947 nationalised the right to develop land.  So even if you own your home outright, you may still need permission from the Government to develop it.  Planning powers are vested in local Government, so if your proposal is classed as a "development" an application for planning permission will need to be made to your local Council.

"Development" includes carrying out physical building work or the making of a "material change of use" to your property.

I will deal with physical building work in my next blog.  In this blog I will be explaining what a "material change of use" means with respect to working from your home.

What is a "material change of use" to my home?
A material change of use to your home will occur if the way in which your home is being used, as judged by your Local Council Planning Department, is no longer primarily as a home.

If you answer ‘yes’ to any of the following you will probably have materially changed the use of your home to a business premises and planning permission will be needed:
  • Will your business result in a marked rise in traffic or people visiting the home?
  • Will your business involve any activities not typically found in a residential area?
  • Will your business disturb your neighbours or create other forms of nuisance such as noise or smells?
So what does this mean in practice?  Give me some typical scenarios?
A child-minding business
If you look after a couple of kids throughout the week then you will not require planning permission to run your child minding business from home.  However, if your childminding business involves looking after lots of kids, then planning permission is likely to be required.  Just think of the poor neighbours!

Many Councils have a threshold number of kids that can be looked after, beyond which, planning permission will be required. This threshold is typically set at around 6 kids.  However the threshold will be different from Council to Council.

Running a consultancy business
You will not need planning permission if you have converted a bedroom to an office and occasionally use your dining room table for meetings with clients.  However, you will probably need planning permission if you employ staff who then start working from your home or if you are getting visits from clients throughout the day.

lodgers vs lodgings
You do not need permission to let a couple of your rooms to lodgers.  However, to divide up your house into separate self-contained flats or bedsits will require planning permission

Other Common Examples
To physically divide off part of your home for commercial use (e.g. a workshop) will normally require planning permission.

To install a parking place for a commercial vehicle at your home needs planning permission.  However this rule is "under-enforced" by most Councils, i.e. they will usually turn a blind eye to it.

I think my home business should have had planning permission - what should I do now?
If you are already operating a business from your home, and think that the business has become the primary use of your home, and planning permission has not been obtained, do not fear.  You can still apply for retrospective planning permission.  If your business has been operating in this way, and the Council has not received any complaints from your neighbours, the chances are that the Council will find your business to be acceptable too.

To 'regularise' your business, 'simply' submit a planning application.  Planning application forms can be downloaded from your local Council's website or you can apply online via the Planning Portal website.

I say 'simply', but too be honest applying for planning permission involves alot of paperwork, plus it can take up to 8 weeks for you to receive your decision.  Be aware that your neighbours will be consulted by the Council on your planning application, so try to get them on board before submitting the application.

Where can I get Further Advice?
Your local Council can advise you whether your home business will require planning permission.  If your proposal does require planning permission your Council should also be able to advise whether planning permission is likely to be granted.  In considering whether planning permission should be granted, your local Council will assess the "local amenity" impact of your business, i.e will it be a nuisance for your neighbours.

If you think your business does not need planning permission, but want peace of mind, you can apply to your Council for a "Certificate of Lawful Use" for your activity.  This will provide legal confirmation that you home business has not resulted in a material change of use, and that your home is still defined as a home by your Council Planning Department.

What about Building Regulations?
A common misconception is that Building Regulations approval is only required for extensions and other major building work.  This is not the case.  Removing internal walls and other internal alternations to accommodate your home business needs may require Building Regulations approval. Speak to your Council's Building Control Team for further advice.

You do not usually need planning permission to work from home. However, the test is whether the overall character of your home will change as a result of the business.  If your home still functions primarily as a home you should be fine.


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