Author: Mark Harnett
How public attractions are used is changing. There is a growing recognition of the increasing demand for a broader night time culture and entertainment offering, which in turn is leading to cities starting to re-evaluate their night time economies. Sleepovers already allow guests to experience a night at the museum or the zoo and the success of such events is leading to a demand for better quality accommodation. Some zoos are seeking to capitalise on this demand by offering permanent accommodation that allows guests to stay overnight in an immersive conservation experience.
Planning permission will generally not be required if the sleepover space can be created without making any changes to the external appearance of the building in which it takes place (which will often be the case) unless the extent of the sleepover use becomes so significant that it comes to be treated by the local authority as an independent use in its own right, rather than just an ancillary part of the main leisure use.
If changes are required to the exterior of a building to provide the sleepover accommodation, or a stand-alone block is to be created in the grounds of the public attraction, permission would probably be required. Such works may well fall outside the scope of any permitted development order under which free standing structures at public attractions, such as rides, are automatically permitted. Whilst these permitted development rights authorise the erection of booths and stalls and plant and machinery, this would not usually include sleeping accommodation. It should also be noted that many public attractions do not fall within the description of amusement parks in any event.
It remains to be seen to what extent the more creative use of space leads to a corresponding increase in planning issues. Taking professional advice at an early stage can avoid any later pitfalls.
Mark Harnett, Partner, Fladgate LLP (firstname.lastname@example.org)