A planning application entitled “Change of use from garage to repack (using hand tools) pet food and pet care products, including storage of raw and finished product” was turned down by the MEPA board after it held that Class 11 operations (light industry use) are not allowed in basements located in residential areas.

The board, whose decision was overturned on appeal, referred to policy 5.2 of DC2007 in support of the decision, adding that the proposed use is not identified among the listed commercial uses which are considered “acceptable” in basements. More so, the board held that access to the premises is via a shared ramp, which provides concurrent access to domestic garages, thus being in conflict with policy of 4.3 of DC2007.

In this context, the board insisted that the proposed shared access would consequently have a deleterious impact on the amenity of the area.

The applicant submitted an appeal to the Environment and Planning Tribunal, insisting that the proposal is of a “local nature”. In addition, the appellant argued that the site consists of one dwelling along with seven underlying garages accessible from a common driveway.

The applicant went on to argue that a “shared access” would be specifically prohibited in the case of sites featuring a mixture of dwellings and commercial outlets, maintaining that in his case, the “access” under consideration is exclusively tied to a complex of garages.

The applicant also made reference to a number of planning permits where the authority allegedly approved similar permits for “disproportionately larger developments and higher car turnover” having access from “garage/parking accesses”. As a final remark, the applicant underlined that his proposal is essentially “a small family business start-up”, whereby “the operations are no different than normal activities a hobbyist would do in his/her garage at weekends”.

For its part, the authority reiterated that, according to current policies, Class 11 use is not listed as one of the acceptable uses for basements in residential areas. Even so, the authority highlighted that the permits quoted by the applicant relate to ground floor locations while the applicant’s premises were located at basement level.
In its assessment, the tribunal observed that although class 4, 5 and 6 uses are expressly prohibited at basement level in residential areas, there is nothing to suggest that lightweight industrial operations are likewise prohibited.

Moreover, the tribunal held that in view of the limited floor space, the envisaged level of activity would not compromise the amenity of the area, even though access to the premises is via a “shared” ramp. On this basis, the tribunal ordered the MEPA to issue the permit, subject to the applicant submitting fresh plans showing a loading/ unloading bay within the premises.