When is a hotel not a hotel?

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In a recent case concerning a change of use of a hotel it was held that a mixed use can exist even where the different uses relate to the same parts, rather than separate parts, of the premises.

In the case of Westminster City Council v Property Investment (Developments) Limited (2015) concerning a change of use of a hotel to a mixed-use hotel and hostel, it was held that a mixed use can exist even where the different uses relate to the same parts, rather than separate parts, of the premises and that the inspector should have considered off-site impacts when determining whether any change of use was material.

An enforcement notice was issued in respect of an unauthorised, material change of use of a C1 hotel to a sui generis mixed-use hotel and hostel. A planning inspector allowed an appeal against the enforcement notice, leading Westminster City Council to appeal to the High Court and, following dismissal of that appeal, to the Court of Appeal.

The inspector had referred to guidance in Circular 03/2005 (now revoked) and the case of Panayi v Secretary of State for the Environment (1985), which both list factors that distinguish hotels and hostels. The inspector found that some factors pointing to a hostel use were present, such as the sharing of dormitories by people who did not know one another. However, the same dormitory rooms could be booked in the style of hotel rooms by people who did know one another. As no parts of the premises were used exclusively for hostel use, the inspector decided that there had been no change of use to a mixed hotel and hostel use.

The Court of Appeal disagreed with the inspector’s conclusion. It was held that it is possible for a mixed use of a premises to exist where the different uses are associated with the same, rather than separate, parts of the premises.

When considering whether any change of use to a mixed hostel and hotel use would be a material change of use, the inspector had not had regard to any off-site impacts. This was despite being provided with evidence of detrimental impacts on the amenity of local residents. The Court held that the inspector’s approach was flawed and that when assessing whether a material change of use had occurred, it was necessary in this case to consider the off-site impacts of the change of use. The Court therefore allowed the Council’s appeal on this ground.

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