Like many of you, Asif Malik, who runs a Nisa Supermarket in Cardiff, is exploring diversification.

Hot food, he is thinking fried chicken in particular. He thought he had seen an EU regulation somewhere that says you can convert 10% of your shop space to A3 usage (normally for takeaways) and the local council cannot therefore refuse.

He hasn't approached his local council yet. I tried surfing the net, as they say, until I nearly drowned. Then I rang Christie & Co, reasoning that they were up to here in property knowledge and usage. They kindly did some research for me.

Matthew Williamson, associate director, says: "From a few conversations that we have had about the subject, the view was that it was down to planning 'units' and as long as the primary use (as per the Use Classes Order) remains as A1 retail, then using a small part of the property for an alternative use should be permitted. As well as the change of use issue, of course, is any physical changes presumably a hot food subway will need extract ducting or new signage, which may require consent.

"I'm not aware of any EU regs that supersede the Use Classes Order. It's probably an issue that will differ depending on the local planning office involved. I don't think we could recommend anything other than to discuss with the local planning authority or a planning advisor."

Good advice. I still remember, and mourn, the passing (from our neighbourhood at least) of a local butcher. He went out of business after the local council turned him down on the hot pies front. The premises is now a Dominos Pizza joint. The butcher confided that the council had hinted that it wanted a backhander that he couldn't afford as he was trying to diversify to stay alive. There is no suggestion that Dominos engaged in such activity, but certainly supermarkets have been known to offer 'sweeteners' to local councils to ensure the planning application goes through smoothly.

Christie pointed out that it is easy to go down a usage class, but trickier to go up. This is why the likes of Tesco are buying up pubs. Matthew also sent me the following from a government circular on 'primary purpose'.

"The Courts have held that the first thing to consider in determining whether a material change of use has occurred (or will occur) is the existing primary use of the land. Each case will always be a matter for individual determination by fact and degree. In particular, local planning authorities will need to take into consideration more than just the amount of floor space occupied by the different uses.

For example, in the case of a premises which incorporates restaurant use as well as pub or bar use, the local planning authority will need to determine whether the existing primary use of the premises is as a restaurant (A3), or drinking establishment (A4), or a mixed use. This will depend on such matters as whether customers come primarily to eat, drink, or both. It is the main purpose of that use that is to be considered."

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