Educational developments Q & A DCP Section 26.3

This section encompasses a wide range of educational and quasi-educational uses ranging from small-scale child minding at dwellinghouses to new university developments. Institutions for the care of the mentally or physically handicapped are discussed at (11.4). Children's homes form a separate section at (11.6). Student's accommodation, including hostels/halls of residence, is discussed at (11.7). For youth clubs, see (17.1). Adventure/activity centres are considered at (18.5). Religious instruction classes are covered at (26.1). Research facilities, where not related to teaching, are dealt with at (14.1 and 14.2).

Q & A    26.3/10

Is there any clear legal basis for distinguishing between "residential colleges" (C2) and "non-residential educational and training institutes" (D1)?   Can a residential college still offer courses to non-residential students, or would this count as a mixed use?

The Use Classes Order is not a legal basis for assuming that a change from a use falling within one class to a use contained within another is necessarily a material one requiring planning permission.  In the instance you cite, I would have thought it unlikely that the introduction of a few non-residential courses would change the character of the existing use to the extent that a material change of use would result. However, manifestations such as increased traffic generation may be a factor in making any determination.

A school proposes to become a "specialist college in the performing arts" and to convert its sports hall into a large performance area with a 1,000 seating capacity. Would this constitute a material change of use?

The existing and proposed use would both seem to fall within Use Class D1, which includes educational activities, and therefore planning permission would not be required.

When determining the appropriate permitted development rights available to schools under the control of local authorities, which part of the GPDO should be applied? Should it be Part 12 "Development by local authorities" or Part 32 "Schools, colleges, universities and hospitals"? Opinions in this council vary, with some advising using both parts.

On the face of it both parts are applicable to local authority schools, and either may be used according to the circumstances of the case. Therefore, if a deemed permission is not given by one part the other may be utilised.

My authority in Wales has recently received a number of queries on whether permission is required to operate as a childminder from home. There is a difference of opinion in the office over the number of children allowed, if any, before a material change of use has occurred. Can you please clarify?

Paragraph 32 of PPG4, originally applicable to both England and the Principality but superseded in respect of Wales by Planning Policy Wales, specifically notes that the use by a householder of a room for childminding complying with the Department of Health's standard recommended ratios may be an ancillary activity that would not normally require permission. The guidance also explains that a material change of use may be indicated where a non-residential use generates visitors, traffic, noise or fumes over and above what might be expected if the property were used solely as a single dwelling. Appeal cases show that the minding of 6 children has been accepted in some circumstances but not in others. There is thus no hard and fast figure or rule of thumb and an assessment of whether a material change of use has occurred is always a matter of fact and degree.

Response

My authority has developed a questionnaire to help consider this matter. This seeks information on a wide range of issues including the number of children and their ages, the hours and days of the proposed use, and the number and type of rooms in the dwelling and whether any would be set aside solely for childminding. In addition, details of childminding staff, parking and traffic movements and of any other non-residential use at the property are sought. Together with the size of the house, its garden and parking facilities such factors are all relevant in determining whether permission will be required. To give two extreme examples:

•    if someone has a one bedroom house, with no outside space or off-street parking, and they already work from home as a taxi operator, they would be very close to a material change of use already. Minding just one child could take the house’s total non-domestic use over the "limit". So in that case, minding one child would need permission.

•    If someone else has a ten bedroom house, set in 20 acres, with no near neighbours and no other non-domestic use, then minding six children might not be a "material change of use", in that case.

As a very rough rule-of-thumb, when dealing with ordinary 2 or 3 bedroom houses, my authority tends to adopt an approach of "fewer than 3 children may not need permission, but more than 5 probably will".

My authority has a number of Annex C sites in its UDP approved in June 2006. However, a school in the green belt has recently closed, which the council wishes to dispose. It has been suggested that paragraph C17 of PPG2 Green Belts anticipates this situation whereby a potential Annex C site comes along between a Unitary Development Plan and a Local Development Framework. This seems to suggest that provided the guidance in paragraphs C3 and C4 is followed then redevelopment for purposes other than education would not be inappropriate development. In addition paragraph C16 seems to me to suggest the possibility of a new school in the green belt when sites cannot be found in the urban area. Any thoughts? PH.

My reading of the guidance in PPG2 paragraph C17 seems to suggest that it only applies in the situation where it is proposed to infill or redevelop existing green belt education sites for similar uses. This guidance is written to follow from paragraph 16 which appears to be saying that the "expansion" of an existing green belt education site could be entertained where this need cannot be reasonably be catered for outside the green belt. In common with much in PPG2 this advice is not very clearly expressed, hence your question. Have any readers had experience of this situation?


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