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Change of use (cafe to residential)

(6 Posts)
EssentialHummus Mon 30-Nov-15 21:20:24

My partner and I are up for a project for our next home. The proverbial property of our dreams has come up, except that it's currently an A3 use caff, with flat upstairs. The rest of the street is residential. The asking price is substantially lower than the equivalent residential property, not least because the kitchen is kitted out to feed the 5000!

I've tried to research this, but can't get an answer to this question: I presume you can't get planning permission before purchase. You want (surely) some reassurance from the council that planning will be forthcoming once you buy and submit applications, since you don't want to run a caff grin. How does this work? Can you approach the council with proposed plans beforehand? Is there a risk that they'll change their minds post-purchase? Any other key high-risk aspects to this?

I am willing to get stuck into planning law, but would love some guidance on the practical steps needed.

Has anyone got experience of this? Where do you start?

Rangirl Mon 30-Nov-15 21:53:43

Approach Planning dept for a chat
Make offer subject to you getting Planning
You do not have to own a property to get planning permission for it

EssentialHummus Tue 01-Dec-15 08:39:44

Thanks Ran - I'll give the Planning Dept a shout.

neepsandtatties Tue 01-Dec-15 09:00:41

Your first port of call will be to do searches to see whether planning has been applied for in the past and refused. It is suspiciously naive for the sellers to sell without planning permission, if this were possible, given you say it is valued 'substantially lower' than similar residential properties.

As Ranchgirl says, you can obtain planning before you own it, but you run the real risk of the seller asking for the uplift in value, and if you refuse, may pull out and sell it for the higher price with the planning permission you've got for them. I guess it might be possible to get a solicitor to write a binding contract to stop them doing that, but I expect that would be on the security of a hefty deposit from you - don't forget if you apply for planning and it fails, their property is worth even less to future buyers...

So do your research carefully (in terms of the planning history of the property, and neighbouring properties to see if any of them were originally commercial) and have a comprehensive chat to the planning department.

In changing away from commercial to residential the main barrier will be loss of 'amenity' in the neighbourhood (i.e. if the cafe closed, it would would bring fewer people in to the neighbourhood who might otherwise support other shops; or if the cafe serves as a focus for the community - the latter more of an issue in rural areas I would think). The other barriers I can think of would be if the change of use would increase parking demands (i.e. if there is currently no off-road parking with the property, having a family living there with 2.5 cars, will be a potential issue) and if the cafe has an attractive shop-front facade etc, you may get resistance from the planners who wish to conserve the traditional street scene.

TremoloGreen Tue 01-Dec-15 09:57:51

Another barrier may be that the cafe is an 'employment use'. If the council are under pressure to preserve such uses, you may have to show that the owners have been unable to sell the property as a cafe or running a cafe in that location has previously proved unviable.

I agree with everything neepsandtatties says re the negotiations with the seller. Have you spoken to them yet about planning permission? I'm surprised they haven't already tried that if they want to get the most from the sale.

EssentialHummus Tue 01-Dec-15 10:27:03

Neeps and tremolo - thank you very much, lots to think about there.

The cafe has been closed for two(ish) years due to the poor health of owner. This is also the ostensible reason for sale (and possibly the explanation for his not seeking permission for change of use himself?). The agent has let us know that it was converted to A3 from C3 relatively recently.

I don't imagine loss of amenity/employment to be an issue as we're an inner London borough with many other facilities available. Likewise, the facade of the building is if anything a bit of a blight at the moment. Parking may be a concern for the reasons neeps stated.

Thank you all again - I'll get in touch with the council.

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