Flats amalgamation ruled material change of use

The amalgamation of four flats in a central London conservation area into a single dwelling constitutes a material change of use, an inspector has concluded.

The inspector noted that although section 55(3)(a) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 provides that the use as two or more separate dwellinghouses of any building previously used as a single dwellinghouse involves a material change of use, there is no similar clarification with respect to the opposite process of amalgamation.

The council’s concern focused on the loss of dwelling stock and pointed to local policy resisting amalgamation of units to create larger dwellings. Having regard to legal opinion and the recent judgment in R (Kensington and Chelsea) v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Others, the inspector agreed that what is regarded as material is affected by planning policy.

After considering differing interpretations of both London Plan and local policy by other inspectors, he concluded that relevant policies sought to provide for housing need and recognised that amalgamation leads to a loss of homes. The cumulative effect of each loss was judged to be material and to have significant planning consequences for the delivery of housing.

On this basis, the inspector considered that the amalgamation of four flats into a single dwelling would constitute a material change, even though there would be no net reduction in the amount of residential floorspace. This conflict with housing policy led him to withhold a lawful development certificate and refuse planning permission.

Inspector: Peter Jarratt; Hearing

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