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Residential conversions: merger risk

By Roy Pinnock

The creation of substantial high-end residential properties in central London by the reconversion of previously subdivided houses, the amalgamation of purpose-built flats or adjoining houses and sideways amalgamation of units is a strong trend. Buyers should consider whether supersized homes need planning permission (and the Community Infrastructure Levy [CIL] liability arising) amid changing approaches by planning authorities.

The Town and Country Planning Act 1990 makes clear that the conversion of a single home into several is a material change of use (requiring permission). The amalgamation of units into one may also be a material change. The effects in planning/amenity terms will almost always be non-material though — fewer people and car movements and less noise. However, Richmond upon Thames v SSETR & Richmond upon Thames Churches Housing Trust [2000] confirms that it is a question of fact and degree to be considered in each case. The Richmond case also suggested that planning policies and evidence of needs are relevant. Where these change, there is a risk that permission may be required.

This is important since as well as facing a risk of refusal and planning obligations it can have a significant CIL consequence. Where permission is required, CIL liability will apply (because change of use to residential is chargeable development, notwithstanding the absence of any new floor area)…

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