Whilst agreeing with the national park authority that a barn on Exmoor was intentional unauthorised development, an inspector judged that this fact was not, on its own, sufficient to dismiss the appeal against enforcement (DCS Number 400-013-494).
Planning permission had been granted for the erection of an agricultural building but the building which had been constructed was longer, wider and higher than that permitted. The inspector found that although materially larger than the approved building and of a utilitarian design, its appearance was such that it would be read as a typical agricultural building on an existing farm complex in a rural setting. She accepted that views were an essential part of the enjoyment of the national park but did not find the additional landscape impact to be so significant that it harmed the natural beauty and scenic quality of the park. Addressing concerns about drainage, the appellant having built over the location allocated for a soakaway, the inspector found that the site could be satisfactorily drained subject to the imposition of a condition.
Turning to the matter of intentional unauthorised development, the inspector recorded that on 31 August 2015, the Department for Communities and Local Government published a planning policy statement on green belt protection and intentional unauthorised development. She explained that the policy came into force on that date and made intentional unauthorised development a material consideration to be weighed in the determination of planning applications and appeals. Although the appeal before her did not relate to green belt, she noted that the policy applies to all new planning applications and appeals received from 31 August 2015. The government is particularly concerned, she noted, about harm that is caused where the development of land has been undertaken in advance of planning permission being granted.
The national park authority contended that the appellant had intentionally flouted the development control process and carried out the development despite being advised not to do so. Correspondence between the NPA and the appellant confirmed to the inspector that this was the case. She also accepted that the NPA had had to take enforcement action which had been time consuming and expensive. Accordingly, she concluded that the development was intentional unauthorised development, and that this was a material consideration weighing against the grant of planning permission. Nevertheless, she did not consider that the matter of intentional unauthorised development carried such significant weight that the appeal ought to be dismissed and the enforcement notice upheld on this basis alone given the acceptability of the scheme in all other respects.
This tells us, it seems, that having a somewhat casual approach to the reading of approved drawings will not in itself carry significant weight in the planning balance, irritating though that might be. It might just tip the scales, though, where there are other matters weighing against the development. As readers will be aware, this marks a change from the situation previously: whilst Section 73A of the Act still allows applications for planning permission for development that has already taken place and the retrospective validation of a contravention of planning control, there is now a sanction in place. As the 31 August 2015 letter from the Chief Planner recorded, in cases where the development of land has been undertaken in advance of obtaining planning permission there is no opportunity to appropriately limit or mitigate the harm that has already taken place, and such cases can involve local planning authorities having to take expensive and time consuming enforcement action.
The following DCP section is relevant: 4.5