The case was about determining the planning use of a former two-storey house which had been converted to enable lettings. The conversion works included the creation of four bedsitting rooms, two on each floor, each of which was self-contained in the sense that it provided its own kitchen and bathroom facilities. The building had two further bedrooms rooms without kitchen or bathroom facilities.
Following service of an enforcement notice, which alleged the subdivision of the property into 5 flats, the owner appealed the notice under ground (b), arguing that the use had changed to “4 self-contained units and two bedrooms”, not to 5 flats, as alleged. The Inspector allowed the ground (b) appeal, and identified that the true nature of the change of use was from a single-dwellinghouse to use of an HMO within Use Class C4. The Inspector refused to exercise his power to amend the description in the notice and quashed it, leaving it to the Council to determine whether to issue a fresh notice with a corrected allegation of the breach of planning control.
The Council appealed the Inspector’s decision under s289 to the High Court, but its appeal was rejected. The Judgment sets down a useful overview of the law that is relevant to the difficult, but all too common, question in planning of identifying the planning use of a building let for tenants that was formerly a single-dwellinghouse. Importantly, the judgment confirms the principle that rooms which have been converted to be “self-contained” may, as a matter of fact and degree, remain part of a single dwelling house in multiple occupation.
The Judge held that there was sufficient evidence before the Inspector for him to lawfully conclude, as a matter of fact and degree, that the building was now an HMO, given the existence of two bedrooms that were not “self-contained” and communal facilities available for use by all those in occupation: a bathroom, kitchen, lounge, garden and parking area.
Whilst the principle is important, the outcome is of course confined to the particular facts of this case. Notably this was an appeal conducted under the written representations procedure, and with little photographic evidence. There was no evidence provided to the Inspector on the terms of the tenancy agreements, which also may have been relevant.