Casebook: Appeal case - Commercial and Industrial - Office staff allowed to use roof as relaxation area

An inspector has allowed in part an appeal seeking confirmation via a lawful development certificate (LDC) that the roof of an office extension in Surrey can be used by staff as an area for rest and relaxation.

The council had granted permission in 2004 for a single-storey flat-roofed extension to the offices, which were used in association with a garden centre. A condition had been imposed stating that the roof should not be altered to prevent it from being used as a balcony, roof garden or amenity area without council permission. The appellants sought an LDC to confirm that the installation of a door to provide access to the roof did not involve development requiring permission. They argued that the condition related to operational development and the use of the roof by staff, given the overall size of the planning unit, would not amount to a material change of use.

The inspector noted that under section 55(2)(a)(ii) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 any works for the maintenance, improvement or other alteration of a building that do not materially affect its external appearance do not involve development. In accordance with the judgement in Burroughs Day v Bristol City Council (1996), he assessed the impact of the works on the appearance of the building as a whole.

He noted that the proposed door would be located in a gable wall and would be seen in the context of two other door openings and 11 windows.

In his view, this would not materially alter the building's external appearance and its insertion would be lawful. When read in a common sense way, the terms of the condition prevented the roof from being used by staff as an amenity area, he concluded. The fact that it referred to altering or adapting the roof did not, in his opinion, mean that it sought to restrict operational development rather than its use.

However, he allowed another appeal involving its use as a sitting out area for staff after ruling that the amenity of nearby residents would not be adversely affected. He imposed a condition limiting it to use by staff only and between the hours of 8am and 6pm.

DCS No: OT100-045-466; Inspector: Chris Craig; Inquiry.

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