Prior to April 2010, dwelling houses where people shared as a group were use class C3.
Under the old definition of C3, a dwelling house could be occupied by upto 6 persons of any description e.g. students, non-students, related/non-related, etc made no difference as long as they shared as a group.
The use class order 2010 revised the definition of the use class related to dwelling houses and split the 'old C3' in two, creating two new use classes; 'new C3' and C4. The 'new C3' was now restricted in its definition to allow only persons who were related or fewer in number than 2 to occupy C3 dwellings. The new 'C4' use class was created for houses occupied by unrelated persons called multi-occupancy, even if they shared as a single group and lived in a comparable style to a family.
The advice from the government and local council is as follows:
Where 'Article 4 directions' apply, planning permission for C4 use must be sought if unrelated people are to be permitted to live in what is currently a 'new' C3 house. Also, it is said that the 'Article 4 direction'/use class order cannot be made retrospective against houses that were in C4 use prior to the direction that have continued to be. However, if a C4 house changes to 'new C3', subsequent C4 use will be forbidden.
The assumption above seems to be that if a house was occupied as described by either 'new C3' or C4 at the time the use class order came into effect, it would thereafter be categorised as either 'new C3' or C4 but not both thereby reducing the rights of the owner by narrowing the permitted use. The point of my post here is that I strongly disagree with this assumption.
In my view, the use class order was simply a 'relabeling' of the description 'old C3'. In my opinion, provided there has been no material change of use, 'old C3' houses should now be correctly described by the new 'label' 'new C3 plus C4' (dual use). The fact that the 'new C3' label is written identically to the 'old C3' label as simply 'C3' seems like an attempt to trick people into thinking that their scope of permitted use has changed. (hence I have added the new/old prefix here for clarity).
I do not understand how a new use class order can affect the scope of long standing pre-existing use as was described by 'old C3'.
In my opinion, the single new use classes only apply to new builds and properties where the owner has sought change of use to a narrower single use class.
Of particular concern to me is the scenario of a property where the very nature of its use can only be accurately described by dual use 'new C3 plus C4'. As example a shared student house that has been rented out to students over 10 years where almost every summer easter and winter for upto 3 months, the occupancy drops to <2 persons thereby falling under the definition of 'new C3' and reverting to C4 during term times. This being the normal characteristic nature of the use of the dwelling prior to the 2010 order and remaining unchanged thereafter.
Am I correct in my view that the above can only be accurately described by dual use 'new C3 plus C4'?
In such circumstances, dual use permission need not be sought from the council but instead, a certificate confirming the lawful established 'dual' use should be issued on request without any debate over granting permission.
I would greatly appreciate the opinions of anyone experienced in planning law over this issue. If I am misunderstanding something then please explain what it is.