A Dorset council ran into trouble after refusing a prior approval application for a barn conversion (DCS Number 400-010-112). The council asserted that the building was not being used solely for agriculture as part of an established agricultural unit on 20 March 2013 and thus failed to meet the criterion set out in paragraph Q.1(a)(i) of the GPDO. The inspector pointed to paragraph Q.1(a)(ii), however, which meant that if the building was not actively in use on 20 March 2013, but agriculture was the nevertheless the last active sole use, then the change of use would comply with the requirements of the GPDO. He found no evidence to suggest that the last active sole use was not agriculture.
Just to compound things, the council went on to decide that the change of use would not be permitted development on account of the location of the building. The inspector recognised that until the changes to the PPG in March 2015 there was uncertainty as to whether the location of a building should be taken into account in determining a prior approval. He accepted that when the decision was made in December 2014 it was not unreasonable to consider the locational aspects of the proposal. However, the March 2015 changes made clear that the fact that the site was in a location where the local planning authority would not normally grant planning permission for a new dwelling was no longer a sufficient reason for refusing prior approval. Not to review its position amounted to unreasonable behaviour.
Costs were awarded against the council on both grounds.
The following DCP chapter is relevant: 4.3423