As with business rates, planning officers say there are no hard and fast rules. The key, again, is in discussion. A lot of people report, anonymously, suspected wrong doings and at least if you have already had discussions with your office then there will be no heavy-handed investigation. This may well prove fruitless but would waste time and add unnecessary stress to your life.
Planning officers say it is all down to a case of material change in use and this is open to interpretation. If an individual uses a study or third bedroom, working from home then there is no problem.
But if they employ anybody or use a larger portion of the house, then they need to have a chat. Officers stress that this does not necessarily mean you will need permission but you would be wise to have a chat.
The classic example that planning officers are taught at college is that planning inspectors work from home – they use one room as an office and this is deemed acceptable. The classic example of those who have to think more carfeully are the likes of hairdressers or chiropractors who potentially would need permission.
Whether you need planning permission is determined by whether it is a material change of use, whether you get permission is determined by levels of activity and the type of use.
If you attract a lot of people to your neighbourhood and they take up parking that your neighbours would otherwise use, you may well need permission. Equally if you are likely to generate a lot of noise, dust or smells, then permission may be needed.
You may think that by converting a garage or outbuilding that you would automatically need permission but this is not necessarily so. If the building is not listed or does not have other convenanted restirctions and if it is for the “incidental enjoyment” of the house, then you will not need permission in normal circumstances.
But again, if you are employing anybody or bringing visitors to the property, check with your local planning office.