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Planning for Success: Robert Botkai and Alex Woolcott write for Petrol Heads Up

Tue 20 Jun 2017

This article first appeared in the June edition of Petrol Heads Up


Planning can, at times, be a complex and frustrating process. Robert Botkai and Alexander Woolcott take a look at the typical issues that can arise in planning for petrol filling stations, both new and existing. 

Use Classes

Petrol filling stations do not have their own use class. Instead they fall into the ‘sui generis’ use class. This means that there are no ‘permitted development’ rights attached to filling stations and that a full planning application has to be made for any new site, expansion of an existing site or an application for change of use.

Making an Application

A concern to planners will be the highways implications of allowing a new filling station to be constructed. A robust traffic and highways analysis should be produced, supporting the location of the proposed filling station.

It is significantly easier to engage with the community early on so as to give time to address concerns; making consultation a centrepiece of the application process can save huge time and cost in the future.

Local resident concerns must deal with ‘material’ planning considerations.  These concerns must be weighed against the benefits that the new development offers.

Local development plans will often have policies which explicitly promote the development of buildings that have economic benefits. The creation of new employment through the development of a petrol station is a key element in this, but so too are the additional economic options that they provide to residents, visitors and employees.

Development of brownfield or otherwise under-utilised sites are also a vital opportunity presented by filling stations which is recognised by planners; often they can present an advantageous form of development that can come forward on sites which might otherwise sit unused and under-developed.

Complying with Conditions

Planning permission, if granted, will typically be subject to conditions. Some of these are standard conditions e.g. commencing the development within three years, or building out in accordance with approved plans. There will, most likely, be a suite of conditions attached specifically to the use of the filling station – typically this will require compliance with a particular opening hours schedule, delivery schedule and adherence to a traffic management scheme. The specific requirements will vary from site to site.

Failure to comply with these conditions risks enforcement action by the local planning authority.

Applying to change the terms of a planning consent

It is, of course, possible to apply to make a change to the conditions. The procedure for this is quicker and more straightforward than that of a new application. However, if the matter relates to, for instance, a change to opening hours, it will need to be shown that the amendment would not have a major impact on the local surroundings.

Whilst it is important to ensure that you know the conditions attaching to any fresh planning permission, the conditions attaching to the existing planning permission are just as important and should be carefully checked when any acquisition or redevelopment is considered.

Keeping Permission Up-To-Date

It is important to ensure that planning permission reflects what is currently on the site. It is better to ensure that permissions are kept current as and when any changes are made rather than to risk potential enforcement action further down the line.

This includes any advertisement consent, which will need to be carefully reviewed as advertisement proposals develop and change.

Owners and operators must be aware of their planning conditions and comply with them at all times. Buyers of petrol stations should undertake a proper audit through their solicitors to ensure that the site they wish to purchase, does not have conditions that would overly restrict the use of the site.

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