Planning consent for dental practices

When setting up a new practice, or relocating to a new premises, it is important for practitioners to be aware of the specific planning consent needed to use a certain property as a dental surgery. For example, dental practices require D1 planning consent in order to be used as a surgery –and it is vitally important for practitioners to make sure that this has been accounted for, since the penalties for failing to secure consent are relatively severe.  

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. Essentially, this class of consent covers any ‘public’ service that does not fall under Class A (generally shops and restaurants, etc.). 

In most cases a practitioner would not need planning permission to convert a property from one of these uses to a dental practice; for example, if a practitioner had purchased a doctor’s surgery and intended to convert it into a dental practice, there would be no problem in doing so.

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. It is worth considering that planning laws are tighter for listed buildings, or in conservation areas – so while listed buildings have plenty of aesthetic appeal, they may lead to issues further down the line. Of course, some alterations will not need planning permission at all, since they will come under the category of a permitted development – though to be sure whether or not this is the case, it is prudent to check with the local authority, look it up on the government’s planning portal website (www.planningportal.gov.uk) or ask a solicitor.

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. It is essential to identify this need early on in the acquisition process, since permission may take time to be approved – or be rejected completely. Understandably, this could have expensive repercussions further down the line – so it is inadvisable to rush into any contracts until it has been thoroughly established if and when full permission can be attained.

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, some permissions may be imposed with certain pre-existing conditions. These conditions will continue to affect the property into the future and any breaches could lead to potential enforcement action by the local authority. 

Practitioners must be aware of these conditions before purchasing a property, since they may ultimately be liable for any breaches that take place. Equally, those wishing to sell their practice must also recognise the fact that the lack of proper planning permissions will likely hold up a sale. Even something as innocuous as an external air conditioning unit that has been placed without the correct planning can set back the process by a substantial time period.

However, it is also worth remembering that there is a ten year timeframe following a breach of a condition in which the local authority can take action. If no objection has been made in that time it could be assumed that the enforcement period has passed but you should take advice for your particular circumstances.

Similarly, there may be, in some cases, 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, enforcement action is unlikely as this will have passed the ten year timeframe. However, specialist advice should be sought if there are any concerns about the possibility of action.

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.

Planning consent is just one more complication in the practice purchasing process. To ensure you do not fall foul of the specific rules and technicalities, enlist the services of a dental-specific solicitor you can trust.

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.

For further information please contact Nicola Lomas or click below to schedule a FREE legal assessment with one of our solicitors:

 

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1 Comment. Leave new

  • Rajinder Singh khela
    February 17, 2022 11:44 am

    Good morning Nicola lomas, absolutely this message to such reference references, to ask such questions may upon it be possible of such to request to obtain with information on your website page a free legal assessment. I upon await awaiting for such responses of such response, thank you.

    Kind regards
    Rajinder Singh khela .

    Reply

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