‘Planning permission’ may well be dirty words to any dentist who has taken on a residential or commercial premises for their new practice. Nicola Lomas of Goodman Grant offers some advice on how to be properly prepared
All properties intended for the use of dental practices must have D1 planning consent – if not, owners may be liable for expensive enforcement penalties. As such, it is vitally important for practitioners who are newly acquiring a property must make sure that the correct permission has been accounted for.
D1 planning consent allows properties to be used as clinics, health centres, crèches, day nurseries, day centres, schools, museums, libraries, halls, places of worship, church halls, law courts and non-residential educational and training centres.
In most cases a practitioner would not need planning permission to convert a property from one of these uses to a dental practice. However, if they intended to make any alterations to the property either upon purchase or in the future, they must consider whether additional planning permission and/or building regulations approval is needed.
If, however, a property did not already have D1 consent – if the property had previously been a personal residence or an office, for example – a practitioner would then need to apply for permission.
Check your status
Unfortunately, not all cases are as simple as either needing planning permission or not; and it is in these instances that practitioners must be particularly careful. For example, it is occasionally the case that a property that has been in use as a dental practice despite not having the correct D1 planning consent. The inherent risks of doing this are quite obvious, but that does not mean it is uncommon even now. These properties are known as ‘long users’ and if they have been in use as a dental practice for in excess of ten years without objection from the local authority, there can be no enforcement for the lack of permission and service may continue as before.
Nevertheless, practitioners need to be aware of this status should they wish to purchase a ‘long user’ property – it may be the case that the property has been operating as a dental practice without objection for eight years, and only when it is sold that this fact comes to light and causes significant issues. Therefore a purchaser’s solicitor would preferably ask for a formal declaration to show that there have been no objections to the use of the property. Ideally, they might also wish this to be supported by an insurance policy which will protect the buyer from any risks of enforcement action in the future. In this case, the insurance policy would need to be taken out by way of a one-off payment on completion of the purchase.
The team at Goodman Grant have extensive knowledge of property acquisitions and, when combined with their understanding of the specificities of the dental market, can ensure your practice purchase is successful and secure.
Nicola Lomas joined Goodman Grant’s commercial property department in 2005 as a legal clerk. She qualified as a solicitor in 2008 and was appointed as a director in 2011. She now specialises in the sale and purchase of dental practices, dealing particularly with the property aspects of business acquisitions and the smooth progress of exchange of contracts and completion.
Telephone: 0151 707 0090