Back to basics

In addressing an appellant’s argument that a 2005 planning permission for a residential barn conversion in north Yorkshire authorised the demolition and rebuild of the building, an inspector has taken us back to basics (DCS Number 200-006-732).

The site had been occupied by a brick barn and a portal frame building but these had substantially disappeared through demolition and storm damage. The appellant argued that the lack of a condition attached to the 2005 permission requiring adherence to approved plans was significant and recognised that considerable rebuilding work was likely to be needed.

The inspector remarked that “Generally, in interpreting planning permissions, the basic principle is that a permission should stand by itself and the meaning be clear within the ‘four corners’ of the document. The public should be able to rely on a document that is plain on its face without having to consider whether there is any discrepancy between the planning permission and the application. In Miller-Mead v Minister of Housing and Local Government [1963], Lord Denning, Master of the Rolls found that ‘…a grant of planning permission runs with the land and may come into the hands of people who have never seen the application at all. It cannot be cut down by reference to the application…’ ”. The implications, he explained, were that any controls or limitations attached to a planning permission need to be clearly and precisely stipulated within the four corners of that permission.

The inspector noted that the approved drawings showed little in the way of reconstruction work to the walls of the original barn. In 2005 a condition requiring adherence to drawings was not routinely imposed on planning permissions but was ‘taken as read’, he recorded. He considered that it was therefore not reasonable to assume that there was any specific recognition that demolition would be necessary. In any event, he continued, the general principle is that the intention of either the developer or the council is immaterial; it is the content of the documents that were placed on the planning register that is relevant.

The inspector found that what was left of the structure on site was incapable of conversion and declined to issue a lawful development certificate.

The following DCP sections are relevant: 10.111 and 10.139

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