A recent case (Hannan v London Borough of Newham [2014] EWHC 1424) has provided a helpful reminder of the effect of a CLEUD (certificate of lawfulness of existing use or development). An application for a CLEUD was made, seeking reassurance that the use of some existing premises for a use within Class A3 was lawful. A certificate was granted for A3 use, on the basis of a site visit by the case officer which concluded that the existing lawful use was as a restaurant.

Notwithstanding the above, at the time of the application, the actual use of the premises was as a banqueting hall and an enforcement notice had been served requiring the use of the premises as a banqueting hall to cease. The enforcement notice was not complied with and prosecution proceedings were brought. It was accepted that a banqueting hall was not a Class A3 use, however it was submitted by counsel for the defendants that the effect of the CLEUD was to make the use that was existing at the time of the application (as a banqueting hall) lawful and that the enforcement notice could not therefore be breached by such use. This argument was based upon s.191(1)(a) of the TCPA 1990, which provides that a CLEUD can be applied for if any person wishes to ascertain whether "any existing use of buildings or other land is lawful".

The High Court rejected this argument and held that the effect of the certificate was that the use specified in the certificate (Class A3 use) was the lawful use, regardless of the use that was actually in place at the time of the application. The wording of the certificate was therefore conclusive and it did not treat as lawful anything which was not an A3 use. This provides important certainty for successors in title when determining the lawful use of a property for which a CLEUD has been granted.