Smart Planning have successfully obtained a Lawful Development Certificate for an existing commercial yard near the town of Hockley within the District of Rochford, Essex.

The site and its immediate surroundings were dominated by commercial nurseries in past years. Many of these had fallen redundant and disused, with some diversifying into storage compounds and others were permitted to redevelop into residential units.

The application site in this instance was a commercial nursery up until 2003. The aerial photographs submitted demonstrated the gradual decline of the business and the subsequent increase in storage activity. The nursery had originated post-war circa 1948-1949. By the scale and nature of the nursery buildings it was clear this was not a horticultural pursuit but a large commercial business.

The winding down of the nursery in 2003 was consistent with others at the time. The landowners made use of the land as an asset for storage following the decline of the nursery. The client in this instance became attracted to the site in 2007 when looking for an alternative space to operate their business. The storage uses being undertaken at that time were consistent with their own intentions and so the client purchased the site.

Rather than use the entire yard themselves, the client decided the rent out lots and units to varying business tenants such as builders, mechanics and gardening contractors. The use of the site for storage intensified as the client sought the proper organisation, marketing and letting of the units as part of the commercial venture. This intensification built upon the earlier
storage uses pre-2007, optimising the site’s use.

However, in 2016 the site was the subject of an enforcement investigation by Rochford District Council with the client being advised to submit an application for a change of use. This was undertaken by the client independently but subsequently refused. Smart Planning were then approached by the client for professional advice, which led to the submission of a Certificate of Lawfulness for Existing Use or Development (CLEUD) with a successful outcome.

Our comprehensive submission was made seeking to demonstrate that a period in excess of 10 years had elapsed during which time the land had been used continuously as a commercial yard. This included a detailed Planning Support Statement, site photographs, aerial imagery, utility bills and multiple statutory declarations.

In coming to their decision, the Local Planning Authority state that the “Evidence submitted to and available to the Council has demonstrated that on balance of probabilities the use of the land as described… has taken place on a continuous basis for a period of 10 years in respect of those parts of the application site as set out… and should therefore be considered lawful.

11 December 2020