Does it matter who occupies houses/ flats? Yes it does, because recent cases show that planning permission may be needed:
- letting on short term basis to visitors for overnight accommodation – planning permission required because material change of use from residential occupation
- change from student accommodation to mainstream residential – not material change, so no permission required
- change from ancillary domestic outbuilding to separate dwelling and/ or holiday accommodation – material change, so permission required
Is there really a significant difference between these forms of occupation? The difficulty is that is all about the individual circumstances of the case and exercise of planning judgment.
Just to confuse matters further, in Scotland (but not England), planning rules can depend on whether it’s a house or a flat: for a house, class 9 of the Scottish Use Classes Order permits any occupation, whether or not as a sole or main residence, by a single person or by people living together as a family, or not more than 5 residents living together including a household where care is provided for residents.
Where permission is granted for specific forms of residential use, such as student accommodation, affordable housing or holiday chalets, restrictions are often imposed by condition/ section 75 agreement to prevent a change to another form of residential use.
The English High Court recently upheld a planning policy requiring new housing to be restricted to occupancy as a principal residence, to address the problem of second or holiday homes (R. (on the application of RLT Built Environment Ltd) v Cornwall Council). There have been calls for a similar policy in parts of Scotland.
In relation to PRS (private rented sector)/ BTR (build to rent), draft advice from the Scottish Government states that retention of BTR units in the rented sector should only be required if the nature of the proposal is significantly different to a standard product for sale and consequently a flexible approach has been taken to normal standards during their planning and development.
It’s all a bit complicated ….