Residential Properties in holiday use
As an area that has a long established tradition as a visitor destination, the use of properties to provide holiday accommodation is commonplace across the Borough, albeit with key areas of concentration in parts of certain towns and villages. A wide range of accommodation types exists, from large scale purpose built caravan/chalet sites in rural areas, to hotels and guest houses in towns and villages.
The Council is aware of concerns arising from the use of individual dwellings for visitor use, in the form of holiday lettings and ‘second’ homes, in addition to a recent innovation in the sector in the letting of all or part of properties through platforms such as Airbnb. Concerns revolve around the principle of losing properties for permanent residential use, house price inflation that disadvantages local people seeking to enter/move up the property ladder, and impacts in terms of disturbance/nuisance to residents in proximity to such properties.
The Council’s Planning and Development Committee considered a report and presentation on the issues surrounding holiday/second homes in March 2022; the report can be viewed here.
Additionally the presentation and discussion can be viewed on the Council’s YouTube channel. The presentation on second homes and holiday lets starts at the 2hr 28 min mark.
The Chair subsequently wrote to local Members of Parliament on behalf of the committee, asking that consideration be given towards providing greater clarity and powers for local planning authorities to address the issues, a copy of which is available below.
The Planning context
Some concerns (noise such as to constitute statutory nuisance), breaches of local parking regulations, and council tax/business rate matters fall outside the parameters of the Planning system.
The Planning system regulates development in the form of new buildings and provides control over some changes of use of existing buildings, set out within legislation defined at the national level. In terms of the use of existing dwellings for visitor accommodation legislation is not clear cut, and therefore an assessment of the individual circumstances of each case is necessary. The following paragraphs seek to provide an overview of the situation. It should be noted that planning legislation and guidance is frequently under review, and there is growing pressure for the issue of visitor accommodation to be clarified and controls strengthened at the national level. There is no ‘quick fix’ however, and until such time as the Government provides clarity in law the situation will continue to be a matter of fact and degree based on a case by case basis.
Second Homes - Unless a property has a specific occupancy restriction (for example, an affordable housing unit owned/managed by a social housing organisation) the purchase and use of a dwelling as a second home does not require planning permission, and there is no intervention the local planning authority can make in such instances.
Holiday lets – unless a property has a specific occupancy restriction (for example, an affordable housing unit owned/managed by a social housing organisation) the purchase and use of a dwelling as a holiday does not automatically represent a change of use in planning terms, and consequently may not require planning permission.
When is Planning Permission required?
The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended) puts uses of land and buildings into various categories known as 'Use Classes’, which are detailed below.
'Change of use' can occur within the same use class or from one use class to another.
Depending on the specifics of any proposed change of use, including any building work associated with the proposal, it may require an application for planning permission or prior approval. If planning permission has not be sought and achieved then there is the potential to investigate and/or take action.
It is important to note that there is no use class that specifically addresses holiday lettings.
Current Use Classes
The current Use Classes were last updated on 1 September 2020 and residential Uses fall under ‘Class C’ as below:
- C1 Hotels - Hotels, boarding and guest houses where no significant element of care is provided (excludes hostels)
- C2 Residential institutions - Residential care homes, hospitals, nursing homes, boarding schools, residential colleges and training centres
- C2A Secure Residential Institution - Use for a provision of secure residential accommodation, including use as a prison, young offenders institution, detention centre, secure training centre, custody centre, short term holding centre, secure hospital, secure local authority accommodation or use as a military barracks
- C3 Dwellinghouses - This class is formed of three parts:
- C3(a) covers use by a single person or a family (a couple whether married or not, a person related to one another with members of the family of one of the couple to be treated as members of the family of the other), an employer and certain domestic employees (such as an au pair, nanny, nurse, governess, servant, chauffeur, gardener, secretary and personal assistant), a carer and the person receiving the care and a foster parent and foster child
- C3(b) covers up to six people living together as a single household and receiving care e.g. supported housing schemes such as those for people with learning disabilities or mental health problems
- C3(c) allows for groups of people (up to six) living together as a single household. This allows for those groupings that do not fall within the C4 HMO definition, but which fell within the previous C3 use class, to be provided for i.e. a small religious community may fall into this section as could a homeowner who is living with a lodger
- C4 Houses in multiple occupation - Small shared houses occupied by between three and six unrelated individuals, as their only or main residence, who share basic amenities such as a kitchen or bathroom.
- Sui generis' is a Latin term that, in this context, means ‘in a class of its own’. Certain uses are specifically defined and excluded from classification by legislation, and therefore become ‘sui generis. Other uses become ‘sui generis’ where they fall outside the defined limits of any other use class.
For example, C4 (Houses in multiple occupation) is limited to houses with no more than six residents. Therefore, houses in multiple occupation with more than six residents become a ‘sui generis’ use, and therefore the creation of a unit in this class would require planning permission
Within the described use classes some changes can take place without the need for planning permission:
- C3 (dwellinghouses) to C4 (small houses in multiple occupation),
- C4 (small houses in multiple occupation) to C3 (dwellinghouses)
In the absence of a defined use class of its own, a judgement must be made as to whether the pattern and nature of use of a property as holiday let has changed from that covered by Use Class C3 to such an extent that it falls outside the C3 use and is therefore ‘sui generis’. If it is considered that such a change has occurred then the property owner can seek to regularise the issue through the submission of a planning application. In these cases the local planning authority can consider whether the use as proposed is acceptable in terms of its planning impacts, and/or whether any mitigation is necessary and can be required through the imposition of conditions attached to a planning permission.
If the authority considers that the impact from the proposed use is likely to cause substantial harm (and this harm cannot be mitigated through appropriate conditions) then it can choose to refuse planning permission. If the use has already been implemented and/or the property owner is not willing to seek planning permission then the local planning authority can seek to take enforcement action to control the activity. It must be noted that action cannot be taken simply because no effort to obtain planning permission has been made, action has to be targeted towards preventing impacts that are judged to be causing material harm. Refusals of planning permission and enforcement notices can be the subject of appeal and the local planning authority must be able to substantiate and evidence its position. Enforcement action can therefore be a time consuming process to assemble the requisite authoritative case.
In assessing whether or not this formal change of use has taken place when a property is in visitor accommodation use, the key tests are whether the specific nature of use is substantially different to the established use of that property. In short, is the ‘current’ use as a unit to provide visitor accommodation giving rise to a pattern of use and impacts that are materially different to that from what would be regarded as its basic use (eg a unit providing permanent residential accommodation)?
Whilst no hard and fast rule can be laid down, it is reasonably safe to assume that a holiday let comprising accommodation which would sleep, say, up to to 6 to 8 people, and is therefore likely to be occupied by family groups who, during their stay, constitute a single household, will in all probability still fall within Use Class C3, and so there will be no material change of use where the property was previously used as a family home.
Reporting a potential breach of control
Any party concerned at the impacts arising from the use of a property as a holiday let can initiate a complaint by contacting the local planning authority. Details of how to do this can be found here.
To assist the investigation of the local planning authority the submission of information along the following lines is helpful and important:
- Address of the property
- Whether the use of the property as a holiday let is a recent change
- What harm is being caused by the use of the property as a holiday let?
- Is the scale of occupancy (number of visitors) substantially and regularly above that which would normally be expected from the property?
- Is the scale of use in terms of parking and external activity giving rise to impacts on neighbours substantially above that which would normally be expected from a property in residential use?
- Is the ‘turnover’ of visitors giving rise to impacts on neighbours’ amenity, in terms of disturbance from arrivals/departures and servicing of units?
- Is the scale and nature of use of garden/external private amenity space giving rise to impacts on neighbour amenity?
When a complaint about a property is received the local planning authority will investigate the matter, albeit it must be stressed that this can be a lengthy process. We will advise you of the position as soon as we are able.