By accident or design

An inspector has upheld an enforcement notice requiring the demolition of a new building on a farm holding on green belt land in Derbyshire, after finding that it had been designed as a residential property (DCS Number 400-017-202).

The inspector noted that NPPF Paragraph 89 sets out that the construction of new buildings in the green belt should be regarded as inappropriate development, save for a limited number of exceptions, buildings for agriculture being one such exception. He recorded that the drawings submitted to the council for the appeal building showed four separate internal areas; for tractor parking, equipment storage, machinery storage and hay storage. He explained, however, that it is the case that for a new building to be considered as an agricultural building, so as to benefit as an exception to paragraph 89, it must be a building that has been designed for agricultural purposes. This, he noted, is supported by long established case law in Belmont Farm Ltd v MHLG and another [1962]  and Chichester D.C. v FSS & Simon Green [2006].

The inspector continued ‘In Belmont Farm Ltd the Court held that “designed” means more than simply “intended by the developer”, and that the correct approach was to “look at the structure at the time of its erection and ask; is this designed for the purposes of agriculture in the sense of its physical appearance and layout?” Also, in Chichester the Court indicated 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 insufficient to simply ask whether a building designed for one purpose might be capable of use for another purpose.’

The inspector considered that, although it was constructed as single storey, the building was of a design and scale commensurate with a 1.5 to 2 storey house. Further close similarities with a residential property were the eight identical and regularly spaced window openings with lintels and sills; the insulated roof structure, the rainwater goods, the use of high quality roof tiles, and brickwork finish to double skin walls. Larger entrances had a height of 2.1m and were similar in appearance to the opening for a domestic garage. Whilst he accepted that the building was being used for agricultural purposes, he found that it had not been designed for agricultural purposes, but appeared to have been designed so as to be readily changeable into a residential dwelling. He concluded that it was not an exception to paragraph 89 as an agricultural building and was therefore inappropriate development, harmful to the green belt.

Further examples can be found in DCP Online section 22.1334 Agricultural buildings looking like dwellings

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