Planning for pubs – development and change of use

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We have noticed a significant increase in the number of clients that are enquiring about the possibilities of securing planning permission for a change of use of a public house to a residential dwelling (Use Class C3).  Equally, we are being increasingly approached by the owners of public houses who are looking at the possibilities of subdividing surplus land such as car parks and pub gardens to maximise the land value.

Change of use

Seeking to change the use of a public house (Use Class A4) does have its problems.  A public house is classed as a ‘community facility’ and Local Planning Authorities often seek to retain this type of use.  The recently published NPPF further promotes the retention of such uses.

However, the sight of a boarded up public house is all too common and with approximately 8 public houses still closing everyday this sight is likely increase.  The reason for the rapid rate of closure is a mixture of consumer confidence and the escalating price of stock, staff and rentals being charged by major breweries and suppliers.

The major stumbling block with such planning applications is justifying the loss of a ‘community use’. The majority of Councils across the UK will have a policy that seeks their retention unless it can be proven to be unviable and unjustifiable to retain.  If appropriate, we aim to demonstrate this by presenting a dossier of marketing evidence proving that the premises are not suitable for retained A4 use.  We usually recommend that clients collect at least 6 months marketing evidence but it is preferable to be able to present 12-18 months with a planning application.

Subdivision of surplus land

Many public houses have large car parks and garden areas that can be subdivided and treated as a separate planning unit.  The majority of public houses tend to be located in built up areas, thus residential applications are often supported in principle.  The sub-division of the public house can be justified on the grounds that the funds generated actually allow the public house/community facility to remain open.

We have worked on schemes for both commercial and residential subdivision.  We have found that involving the community at the design stage and informing them of the reasons for the planning work has generated support and placated the most vociferous of objectors.

Certificate of Lawfulness

If the pub has been closed for over four years and there is continued residential occupation then there may be scope to secure a Certificate of Lawfulness of Existing Use. This would establish the lawfulness of the pub as a dwellinghouse. It can be a complicated area of planning law, touching on issues such as primary/ancillary use and abandonment. You can read more about a recent successful scheme here .

If you own a public house and wish to look at the development possibilities, or you are thinking of purchasing a public house to convert into a dwelling, then please get in contact with one of our consultants.  Should you wish to discuss development options for your pub please contact the team via 01242 501003 or email