Getaway cars

Airport parking at six former agricultural buildings near Gatwick has been denied a lawful development certificate notwithstanding the appellant’s claim that the use was in line with the authorised storage use of the buildings (DCS Number 200-007-675). The go-to court case in these circumstances is Hickmet, referred to by the appeal inspector.

The inspector judged that the appeal turned on a consideration of firstly, whether the proposed use fell within Class B8, which the parties agreed was the lawful use of the site following the implementation of a 2007 planning permission. If it did not then secondly, whether the proposed use would be materially different from the storage use taking place that had resulted in the implementation of the 2007 planning permission. She recorded that the appellant proposed to use the buildings on site to store cars. He would enter into contracts with hotels that were unable to keep cars on site while patrons were away on holiday. Minibuses would take drivers to the hotels and then the cars would be driven in a convoy during off-peak times to the site and placed in one of the buildings. On average they would be stored for ten days and then they would be returned to the hotels using the same process in reverse. The buildings had the capacity to store 1200 cars.

The council questioned whether the proposed use actually amounted to the storage of cars, referring to the Court of Appeal decision, Crawley Borough Council v Hickmet Limited [1998], which drew a distinction between the storage of cars and the parking of cars. The council argued that the proposal would amount to a parking use and therefore would not fall within the Class B8 use. Furthermore, the parking use would be a material change of use from the existing lawful use as the Court of Appeal in Hickmet described the concepts of storage and parking as being mutually exclusive.

The inspector explained that in the Hickmet case it was held that ‘parking is when a car is left in a convenient place for the resumption of an interrupted journey or the start of the next journey’. It might be ‘short term, overnight or long term’. However, taking a car off the road because, for example, the driver is disqualified, or keeping cars on a site after manufacture before they go to be displayed at the dealers, would be storage. This is because ‘The notion of parking is that it is a temporary cessation from when the vehicle is in motion. A car is still in use when it is parked. It is probably not in use when it is put into store’. The inspector judged that the proposed use was more akin to the description given in the Hickmet case; the cars would be left in a convenient place until the start of the next journey which in all likelihood would be to take the owners home after their holidays. For these reasons the inspector concluded that the proposed use would not fall within Class B8 as it would not be a storage use.

Turning to consideration of whether the proposed use would be materially different from the authorised storage use, the inspector found that there was limited information from the appellant. He claimed the vehicle movements associated with the proposed use would not be materially different from the limit set down in the 2007 planning permission, she remarked, but did not provide any figures to support his assertion. On the evidence before her she concluded that there was insufficient information of any clarity to lead her to the view that a material change of use would not occur if the proposal were to go ahead. She concluded overall that the council’s refusal to grant a certificate of lawful use or development in respect of the use of existing buildings for the storage of cars for hotel patrons was well-founded and that the appeal should fail.

Further court cases relating to airport parking can be found at section 20.5111 of DCP Online.