Please Note: This Article is 7 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.

Not all businesses aspire to be in purpose-built premises and for corporate image there is something to be said for the appeal of former residential dwellings used as offices, shops, workshops or hotels, particularly when located in main-road positions. One attraction is the likelihood of off-street parking where the front garden provides a forecourt for on-site car parking.

In many places, demand for parking spaces exceeds supply so the availability of on-site parking may enhance the value of the property. Where service roads exist, such as behind shops, access may be narrow, congested, the road surface uninviting. Accommodation roads (in front of the building) are frequently full up all day or yellow-line restricted and traffic warden patrolled bays with pay-and-display meters. The cost of parking in council or privately owned car parks can be expensive and a deterrent to motorist visitors and shoppers. Businesses that provide free parking for staff and customers enjoy a competitive edge, and generally premises that include on-site parking for tenants and occupiers are more valuable and readily lettable.

Where a property without rear vehicular access fronts the public highway, there may not be anything to prevent the owner or tenant from converting the front ‘garden’ to hardstanding to create a forecourt open to the adjoining highway, (assuming no restrictions in the title or tenancy). But free-standing wedges in the road to facilitate driving over the kerb, as can be spotted in residential streets, would be breaking the law and enforcement action could be taken to prevent such practice. Furthermore, the person may become liable for any damage to the surface or sub-formation of the footway or any utility services damaged as a result of that action.

If you intend to drive a vehicle over the public footway into your driveway/forecourt off a public highway, then you would need a dropped-kerb. A kerb is a stone edging to a pavement or raised path between the road and the path/pavement. Kerbs separate road from roadside, discouraging drivers from parking or driving on pavements and verges, vehicles can be destabilised if they hit the kerb; kerbs also provide structural support to the pavement edge, can be used to channel runoff water from rain, or melted snow and ice into storm drains, and are aesthetic: kerbs look formal and “finished”. Kerbs add to the cost of the road so are generally limited to urban areas. Kerbs are normally 90 degree vertical-faced but slope-faced kerbs with shallow reveals (the lip between kerb and paving stone) allow vehicles to cross at slow speeds. Dropped-kerbs are cuts in the kerb to allow vehicles to cross between the road and off-street.

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Depending upon the importance of the road, planning permission may be required. Whether the council would allow a dropped-kerb to be installed where none exists already depends upon the position of the dropped-kerb in relation to the highway and wider consequences. Reasons for refusal (which can be appealed against) include the property is on a bend or at a road junction, a tree is in the proposed crossing, street furniture or lamp-lighting may impede access, the property is close to traffic signals and/or a designated pedestrian crossing, there is a steep slope between the property and the road, the hardstanding and/or visibility isn’t sufficient. The installation would have to be carried out by an approved contractor, with all costs and fees paid by the property owner.

During the early 1970s, when I was a partner in my late father’s firm of chartered surveyors in Harrow, Middlesex, there were several ex-houses nearby that were used as offices and whose front gardens had been converted into forecourt parking. When I set up my own practice in 1975, I used to park on the forecourt of my office building in South Harrow, even though that meant driving over the kerb and a wide pavement. Long after I relocated my office, the council erected barriers on the pavement to prevent that habit continuing. The owner of a property that abuts the highway has a common law right of a frontager to access the highway from any part of his property. However, that right can be modified by a highway authority exercising statutory powers to improve or maintain a highway, and to carry out works even though they many interfere or obstruct frontagers’ rights; which is precisely what happened to a solicitor who since 1969 had used the forecourt in front of his office (ex-residential) in Station Road, Harrow for parking, manoeuvring cars over the public pavement and to exit in reverse. No planning permission existed for that means of access but the use had continued for so long that any breach of planning control was immune from enforcement.

In Cusack v Harrow London Borough Council [2011], the Court of Appeal held that Patrick J Cusack & Co were not entitled to an injunction restraining the Council from erecting the barriers, but that under the Highways Act 1980, the Council would have to pay compensation because the Court considered the Council’s proposed action and reason for take it fell squarely within s.66(2). The Council appealed and in 2013 the Supreme Court ruled that compensation would not be payable because the Council could choose to use the s80 route, thereby avoiding paying compensation.

Of no comfort to property owners to be reminded that, where there are two statutory routes to achieve the same result, a local authority is entitled to choose the route that imposes the least burden on the public purse, provided that this is not unreasonable or an abuse of power, it is worth remembering that the continuing value of premises where unofficial forecourt parking has been in place for years could hinge on indifferent councils.

Michael Lever

The Rent Review Specialist

Established 1975

Please Note: This Article is 7 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.
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