Class Q prior approval granted when council slips up on timing

An inspector rejected a Northamptonshire council's claim that it had issued a refusal of an application for prior approval for Class Q permitted development comprising the conversion of a barn to three dwellings and took no further action on the case.

The GPDO sets out that a permitted development must not begin without the local planning authority notifying the applicant as to whether prior approval is given or refused before the expiry of 56 days from receipt of an application.

The council had issued its formal decision notice to refuse prior approval, on the basis that the location of the barn made it undesirable for a change of use to three dwellings, outside of the 56-day period but maintained at appeal that approval was not deemed to have been granted by the lateness of its formal decision notice. The council also argued that the content of an email sent by the planning officer to the applicant within the 56 days should be considered as its decision to refuse.

The inspector acknowledged that there is no required format for a decision notice relating to an application for prior approval under the provisions of the GPDO. But after examining the content of the email and noting that it was in fact normal council procedure to issue a formal notice, he concluded that the email did not amount to a notification of a decision to refuse to grant approval for the application and had never been intended as such.

As the council’s formal decision notice fell outside of the required 56-day notification period, the application for prior approval under the provisions of Article 3(1) and Schedule 2, Part 3, Class Q of the GPDO was deemed to have been granted and it was not necessary for the inspector to consider whether the location was a suitable one for housing.