Holiday time

It’s high summer so it must be time to talk about holiday cottages….

Notwithstanding his determination that a holiday cottage at a golf club in Bedfordshire was a dwellinghouse, an inspector decided that the necessary period for its residential occupation to become immune from enforcement was ten years rather than four (DCS Number 200-007-562).

Planning permission for seven holiday cottages had been granted subject to a condition that they should not be occupied by any one person for more than 28 days in any calendar year.

The council was of the view that the ‘holiday cottages’ would amount to dwellinghouses, that the description of the development alone would not be sufficient to restrict the use for holiday purposes, and it was the condition that was the defining factor. On that basis it contended that the residential occupation was in breach of the condition.

The inspector recorded that the question of whether a holiday unit is materially different from a dwellinghouse has been the subject of numerous judgments. He noted that in Sheila Moore v SSCLG [2012], the judge stated that whether the use of a dwellinghouse for commercial letting as holiday accommodation amounts to a material change of use will be a matter of fact and degree in any given case. There should be no assumption that the use of a dwellinghouse as holiday accommodation will always amount to a material change of use or that use of a dwellinghouse for commercial lettings can never amount to a change of use.  Having regard to the layout and use of the properties it appeared to the inspector that the seven units were undoubtedly dwellinghouses. He was not satisfied that there would be any substantive difference in the character or impact of the units whether they were in use for holiday accommodation or for permanent occupation. Accordingly, he was not satisfied that the description of the development alone would have been sufficient to prevent occupation as a permanent dwelling. In effect, he reasoned, planning permission was granted for seven dwellinghouses. A dwellinghouse falls within Class C3 of the UCO and, if no condition were in place to restrict occupancy, it appeared to him that the council would have been unable to enforce against any use that fell within that Class.

The inspector further recorded that the time limits for taking enforcement action are prescribed by section 171B of the Act. Subsection (2) states that where there has been a breach of planning control consisting in the change of use of any building to use as a single dwellinghouse, no enforcement action may be taken after the end of the period of four years beginning with the date of the breach, and subsection (3) states that in the case of any other breach of planning control, no enforcement action may be taken after the end of the period of ten years beginning with the date of the breach. He concluded that the planning permission had effectively granted consent for the erection of seven dwellinghouses. The use of those dwellinghouses was controlled by the condition. The breach had occurred when the appeal property was occupied in breach of that condition. Since that did not amount to a change of use subsection (2) of s171B was not applicable. Rather, the relevant time period for taking action was that set out in s171B(3) which is ten years. There was no dispute that the appellant was unable to demonstrate that the breach had continued for ten years at the time the notice was served, and accordingly the appeal failed.

We wish we could tell you that the situation was more clear cut but like many things in planning, therefore, the difference between a dwellinghouse and a holiday dwelling is fact and degree, fact and degree.

See section 9.541 of DCP Online for further information on holiday occupancy conditions.