Complicated Potential Purchase - Please Advise

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    Complicated Potential Purchase - Please Advise

    *I posted this originally in the Conveyancing section but have just realised that this area is probably more relevant.*

    My partner and I are interested in a property which is for sale. It was previously an architect's commercial office and they then in 2009 applied for planning permission to have it converted into a residential property.

    The issue is that when googling the property's address I found its court case featured in a legal magazine! The architects took the council to court because of the following:

    December 2009: Council grant planning permission for conversion (work begins)
    May 2010: Owners (the architects themselves) receive a denied planning permission document dated Dec 2009 (work has nearly been completed). The council inform them that they must reinstate the previous office and threaten a court enforcement.

    The architects then took the council to court and the accepted decision was upheld. The council tried to claim that this first decision was an error and wasn't valid because it was made without the correct authority.

    The magazine states that:
    "The court held that the first notice should be treated as valid unless and until reduced (set aside) by a court order or until revoked or modified by the council in accordance with the powers in ss 65, 66 and 76 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997. For so long as the first decision notice fell to be treated as valid, the council had no power to issue a second decision on the same application."

    The house has been occupied and registered for council tax since 2011.

    My concern is, what happens if we buy it and the council come and contest the first decision and say it must be made into the original office again?! The last paragraph of the document concerns me:
    "So, where does this leave matters? Planning permission is in place for residential development. But, how secure is this?
    Planning permission or no planning permission? It remains to be seen whether any action is taken to reverse or set aside the council’s 2009 grant of planning permission."

    Also now finding further details and coverage online. Any advice on what would be the best steps if we are interested or if we shouldn't touch it? :/


      Depends how cheap it is and if you like a punt. I haven't read the links but they suggest it is in Scotland? Scottish law - well who knows.

      The fact that council tax is being paid suggests a level of acceptance and I know of a local authority near to me does not contest some conversions (from say small shops to residential without planning consent).

      I would go to the planning office and ask to see the file - chances are it will be digitised so plan to spend a good time trawling though the 'paperwork' - never trust what is written in the press and do your own research. Chat with a planner for that area and try and find out what happened and what their view is now. Someone made a giant cock up - who was that person and what where the circumstances? Make a decision on that.

      Most councils in these hard times would not want to throw more money at a case like this when they are getting revenue from the place I would argue.

      Freedom at the point of zero............


        Thanks very much for your reply.

        It appears that the council majorly mucked up with the original granting of planning permission. They argue it was a mistake but the head of planning also erroneously issued a building warrant a few months later! The architect also says they received a letter from the council to state that the original granted planning permission is valid so it seems it would be highly unlikely that a judge would rule that all of that was null.

        I'd imagine that even if they did, and the property had to been changed back to offices, there would be some form of compensation from the council.

        Having dug a little deeper, the work on the property was completed in May 2010, so the 4 year limit on enforcements of single dwelling conversions has now passed.


          This sounds like it calls for indemnity insurance, particularly if you want to buy with a mortgage.

          But again, Scots law - who knows. You need to check this with your conveyancer...


            Thanks mattl. Apparently indemnity insurance isn't valid if the council are already aware of the property's alterations.


              In that case it sounds like you're stuffed.


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