Working from Home – Misleading Guidance on Working from Home considered by The High Court

In Sage v Secretary of State for Housing, Local Government and Communities [2021] EWHC 2885, the High Court considered whether Mr Sage’ (the applicant in this matter) use of an outbuilding as a gym, was a material change of use.

The applicant had furnished part of an outbuilding in his garden as a gym in which he held one-to-one training sessions with paying clients. Mr Sage considered this use incidental to the use of his dwelling house and did not seek to obtain planning permission. He instead applied on two separate occasions to London Borough of Bromley Council for a Certificate of Lawful Use under S191 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Mr Sage made further appeals after having both applications rejected by the Council, however these were also rejected by the inspectors under s288 of the above act.

The applicant took matters to the High Court, arguing the inspector’s decision to reject his application was unreasonable.

The High Court judge dismissed the appeal affirming that the inspector’s decision to reject the application was found to be rational and that Mr Sage’s use of the outbuilding had gone beyond that which was incidental to a dwelling house.

"Planning permission will not normally be required to home work or run a business from home, provided that a dwelling house remains a private residence first and business second (or in planning terms, provided that a business use does not result in a material change of use of a property so that it is no longer considered a single dwelling house). A local planning authority is responsible for deciding whether planning permission is required and will determine this on a case-by-case basis. Issues which they may consider include whether home working or business use leads to noticeable increases in traffic, disturbance to neighbours, abnormal noise or smells or the need for any major structural changes or major renovations."

When is permission required? - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) -Do I need planning permission to home work or run a business from home?

The High Court criticised the Secretary of State’s planning practice guidance on applying for a Certificate of Lawful Use highlighting that this guidance was “too readily capable of being misunderstood”, for example, the Secretaries of State’s guidance did not state explicitly that, while a business use of a dwelling house may be considered secondary to the primary residential use of that dwelling, it could still amount to a material change of use to a mixed or composite use.

Frank Smith & Co Solicitors 01242 801748 www.franksmithandco.com

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