Capable of agricultural use/designed for agricultural use

An enforcement notice requiring the demolition of a structure on a landholding in Somerset was upheld, (see DCS Number 200-004-565), an inspector deciding that although it might be capable of agricultural use it was not designed for agriculture.

The council believed that the blockwork structure was on its way to becoming a dwelling and that it was prudent to take enforcement action, in fairness to the developer. The council relied on the case of Chichester D.C. v FSS & Simon Green [2006] which it considered to indicate that an enforcement notice can be served against a building likely to become a dwelling. The inspector had some doubts as to this interpretation but noted that the judgement went on to indicate that, in deciding whether to grant permission, a decision maker would need to take account of what the essential character or design of the building was. It was recognised that it was insufficient to simply ask whether a building designed for one purpose might be capable of use for another purpose.

The inspector observed that the building was incomplete, being a blockwork structure constructed up to eaves level. There was no first floor in place but joist hangers had been installed in readiness. The walls would be clad externally in white lias stone and the roof in slates, with table stones to the gables. The drawing showed the proposed use of the ground floor as four animal pens, with a tractor/machinery store in the centre. The first floor would be used for hay and feed storage. The building had numerous openings in the masonry which had the character of domestic fenestration. The main entrance had a height of less than 2m, which would make it of limited use for its stated purpose of housing a tractor and a loader, or for other agricultural machinery.

The inspector found that the building was plainly capable of being completed and put to use as an agricultural building. However, he was struck by its underlying residential character, which led him to the view that it had not been designed for agricultural use. Whilst he accepted that the building was capable of being used for agriculture, he supported the council’s view that it had not been designed for agricultural use. It appeared to have been designed to be readily convertible to a dwelling, he concluded.

The following DCP chapter is relevant: 22.1334

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