Live/work units Q & A DCP Section 10.5

Live/work (L/W) units are units of living accommodation, which are specifically designed to accommodate work facilities for those residing therein. They are normally a product of the conversion of existing non-residential buildings, but may be new build. They are sometimes mistakenly called atelier units which are actually studios or workshops with no residential element.

Q & A    10.5/10

I am researching the live/work phenomenon. One of the big issues of concern to local authorities is how to control a live/work scheme so that it does not revert to wholly residential use.  Another concern is the appropriate car parking and internal space standards that may be applied.

A survey of appeal decisions concerned with live/work units indicates that conditions are applied which seek to secure a continuing ratio between workspace and living space. In addition conditions preventing sub-division and restricting residential occupation to those employed in the linked workspace have also been imposed.  Parking standards to be required vary according to the context of the site and its previous use, but the possibility of workers being employed in addition to those resident may need to be considered. Space standards as such do not appear to be a particular problem save those normally applied to secure that occupiers enjoy adequate outlook and amenity space.


Live work units are a composite B1/C3use and enjoy permitted development rights under part 3 Class E of the General Permitted Development Order allowing the work element to be extinguished by the live element. Hence such permissions should be subject to conditions removing this permitted development right. The four-year rule also applies to such a change, and some agents have promoted live-work on a "keep quiet for four years basis".  The interesting question arises over whether planning obligations can be used to covenant purchasers to rescind any such immunity or from appealing against enforcement. Are there any precedents?

It would be particularly interesting if any reader has experience of use of Part 3 Class E rights in respect of permitted composite uses

I have purchased a live/work unit with a planning condition that specified a 50:50 ratio. I am an independent consultant who works without any other employees and only requires a small amount of space.  The flat is on the third and fourth floors without a lift and I do not have any clients who visit the premises. What are my chances of gaining a permission for 10% business and 90% residential and how would this affect the business rates position

Normally a planning condition specifying a ratio such as in this case will have been imposed to preserve a strong employment aspect to the development and to prevent a dominant residential use.  In such a situation it is almost certain that the relevant local authority will oppose any move to reduce the specified ratio in the way you suggest, but appeal cases would suggest that there may be room for relaxation to allow the residential element to expand to 60% to 75%.  As to the business rates situation I do not have any information which may assist.

I have been requested to put together a scheme for new-build live-work homes for sale. The units would be purpose designed for families, with a separately accessed dedicated B1 space for home working.  I am having difficulty in finding any industry standards or best practice in this field, which I find remarkable given government espousal of this concept. Can you help?

As you say, government policy is in favour of mixed-use schemes particularly those that reduce the need for commuting, and live-work projects are normally accepted as fulfilling these criteria.  However, so far as I am aware no specific national guidance has been produced relating to live-work units. The success record of such schemes when they come to appeal is patchy.

I refer to the use of the live work concept to mitigate local authority objections to 100 per cent residential use of former agricultural buildings. I would be interested to know whether there are recent cases where the concept of live work units has been used in respect of farm diversification. The case I am dealing with concerns a pig farm where it is proposed to redevelop prefabricated buildings with vernacular style live work units.

A similar situation was examined in an appeal case determined last year in Harrogate. Here it was proposed to redevelop former pig buildings for five B1 units with ancillary residential accommodation. However, an inspector felt that the proposal would be likely to result in "prestige office buildings, albeit with an agricultural inspiration", and were therefore a discordant feature in a rural landscape. It was agreed that the proposal could have some positive benefits for the farmer but the inspector found that local plan policy on farm diversification would not be complied with as the proposal did not re-use existing buildings or respect the character and appearance of the area. Looking at rural live work appeal cases generally I find that the record is not a good one for applicants, a common pitfall being sustainability.

A lawful development certificate has been granted for a dog breeding/boarding use within a domestic outbuilding. The previous owner undertook mainly breeding and took in boarders "from time to time" and the new owner wants to use the building for some breeding but predominantly boarding for members of the public. I understand many breeders offer some ‘ancillary’ boarding to friends, family and buyers of puppies but not to members of the public. I have looked in the Land Use Gazetteer and Development Control Practice and cannot find out whether breeding and boarding are classed as one sui generis use or whether they are two separate sui generis uses. If the building was mainly used for breeding with some ‘ancillary’ boarding and then used for commercial boarding with some breeding, would a change of use occur if the breeding element did not amount to a commercial use and could be deemed to be at a scale ordinarily incidental to the enjoyment of the dwelling? LT

Breeding and boarding dogs are uses of different character, even if they have some elements in common, so would be classed as being materially different. If the lawful development certificate is "open", i.e. the scale and nature of the use is not defined in the certificate, the council would normally have difficulty under planning powers controlling the intensity of the use for the specified purposes. If the breeding use dropped to a very low level such that it would be considered of domestic scale, it would, however, be possible to argue the commercial use had been abandoned and therefore a material change of use had taken place. If a lawful development certificate is granted for an existing use, as this example shows, it is important that matters such as the nature and scale of use should normally be defined.

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