Looking at ‘use’ in planning – retrospective consent secured for an annexe to rental property

sketch of site and annexe accommodation

September already and after a busy summer, the fruits of our hard work are already rolling in. Most recently we have secured retrospective planning permission for a 1x bed residential flat in the rural setting of Danbury and Bicknacre, Essex.

This application raised some interesting issues and responds to a common misconception; that planning applications only relate to physical structures, developments and alterations. In fact, the use of a site is also a key planning consideration.

Change of use from annexe to private rented accommodation

This project centred on the use of a 2-storey garage. Planning permission had been secured 15 years previously, with an annexe situated on the first floor to provide a 1x bed ancillary residential accommodation for family members.

However, in recent months it had been rented out privately. By changing the use from ancillary for family members, to a private rented unit, a ‘change of use’ had occurred and this triggered the need to retrospectively seek planning permission.

Understandably, our client was concerned as beds-in-sheds is often an issue for local councils and many have specific policies to control the use of annexe accommodation.

In this case, as the change of use had already taken effect, we prepared a retrospective application to regularise the position in planning terms and to future proof its use.

Preparing a retrospective application for a change of use

We undertook a site visit to fully understand the context and were able to see first-hand that the dwelling in question was typical of the area, situated in a sizeable plot and surrounded with mature trees and hedgerows.

The planning balance in this case was to evidence that the plots are not over-intensified and that any additional dwelling or movement, noise or traffic created by that dwelling, would not have a detrimental impact on the area or neighbours.

We prepared a planning statement to demonstrate this planning balance, and how the application met Chelmsford City Council’s planning policy requirements, including five key criteria regarding the re-use of rural buildings. This was particularly relevant given the site location within an area defined as countryside on the Council’s adopted proposals map.

We successfully demonstrated how the proposed scheme was compliant with national and local planning policy taken as a whole and would represent sustainable development. The council agreed that the proposals responded to positively to policy and approved the change of use for a 1xbed, privately rented unit of accommodation.

How we can help

In regard to residential dwellings and annexe accommodation, as this project has shown, even if physical building works are not taking place it is important to understand that altering how the site is used can constitute a change of use in planning terms.

Such a change will require a planning application to regularise the new planning position, and if this is not dealt with at the time of the change, it can lead to Enforcement Action by the Council, which can be costly and time-consuming to deal with.

If you require planning support in relation to the use of your site or development, please do not hesitate to contact us for a quote for our services, either via or using our Landmark form.

IMAGE SOURCE: Andrew Pipe Associates (2002)