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DCAN 4: Restaurants, Cafes and Fast Food Outlets
Scope of Guidance

1.5 Non-statutory planning guidance, including Development Control Advice Notes (DCANs), is intended to supplement, elucidate and exemplify the Department’s policy documents and development plans, and will be taken into account as a material consideration in determining a planning application.
1.6 DCAN 4 explains the criteria and technical standards which the Department considers when dealing with proposals for restaurants, cafés and fast food outlets. It applies throughout Northern Ireland to development proposals (including new buildings and changes of use) for the sale of food for consumption on the premises or of hot food for consumption off the premises. The guidance does not apply to premises such as sandwich bars selling cold food for consumption off the premises as these are classified as shops.
1.7 Use for the sale of food or drink for consumption on the premises or of hot food for consumption off the premises is excluded from any class specified in the Planning (Use Classes) Order (Northern Ireland) 1989, and use for the retail sale of hot food is explicitly excluded from Class 1 (Shops) of the Schedule to the Order. In terms of their uses, restaurants, cafés and fast food outlets are therefore quite distinct from retail shops.
1.8 Under the provisions of the Planning (General Development) Order (Northern Ireland) 1993 Part 3 Class A, development consisting of a change of use of a building to a use falling within Class 1 (shops) or Class 2 (financial, professional and other services) of the Planning (Use Classes) Order (Northern Ireland) 1989 from a use for the sale of food or drink for consumption on the premises or of hot food for consumption off the premises, is permitted development for which planning permission is granted by Article 3 of the Order. The converse is not the case, however, and the conversion of a shop to a restaurant, café or fast food outlet is a material change of use that requires express planning permission.
1.9 This guidance supersedes:
  • Development Control Advice Note 4 ‘Hot Food Bars’ (1983) and;
  • Development Control Advice Note 6 ‘Restaurants and Cafés’ (1983).
1.10 Belfast Divisional Planning Office has produced a number of Development Guidance Notes which relate to the control of hot food bars. In the event of any conflict between these notes and DCAN 4, the DCAN will take precedence.
1.11 Although many of the planning considerations applicable to a fast food outlet apply equally to a café or restaurant, a change of use of part of either of these premises to incorporate a ‘carry-out’ facility also requires planning permission. However, if the ‘carry-out’ facility is only of a very minor nature and obviously ancillary to the main use of the premises, planning permission will not normally be required.
1.12 Any test for whether a use is ancillary to another is a matter of fact and degree, and each case has to be determined on its particular merits. However, in practice two principal criteria have emerged in terms of assessing if an activity is ancillary. Firstly, a severability test, i.e. can the ancillary use practically and viably operate on its own were the primary use of the premises to cease, if it could then the use is very unlikely to be ancillary as there is no clear linkage or dependency. Secondly, an environmental impact test can be used to examine the outward effects of the use, in terms of the appearance of the premises, the amenity of the surrounding area or neighbourhood traffic conditions. If it could be shown that there would be a significantly greater impact following from the introduction of the alleged ancillary activity, then it is unlikely it could be described as ancillary.
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