A Princely Planning Problem?
Prince Charles as Duke of Cornwall owns a large property portfolio and within this is land on the Albert Embankment in London. The former offices of the Metropolitan Police in Tintagel House stand on part of the land. The building (owned by Galaprice on a 140 year lease) has been empty for some time and Galaprice have used “Property Guardians” as security. Now Lambeth Council has issued Enforcement proceedings alleging that the occupation by Property Guardians constitutes a conversion to residential use and that planning permission is required. The Enforcement proceedings have been issued against all persons interested in the building and the list of recipients includes “His Royal Highness Charles Philip Arthur George”.
The action by Lambeth is unexpected as most lawyers believe that occupation by Property Guardians is not a change of use and advice given by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in 2005 appears to support this. As more and more owners are using Property Guardians as an effective and cheaper way of dealing with the problem of empty commercial buildings the result of the case will be eagerly reviewed.
The case should also remind conveyancers that the removal of the need for planning permission for changes from office to residential use (introduced last year) allows for certain areas to be exempt from this policy and it is always necessary to check this when advising owners.
Conveyancers should also bear in mind that Stewart Title do offer cover for existing breaches of planning regulations and may be able to assist where your clients need that cover — whether in the above scenario or otherwise.