A narrow distinction

In one respect the planning system can be compared to the tax system. Tax avoidance might represent diligent financial husbandry, whereas tax evasion will land you in serious trouble. Similarly, avoiding the requirement for planning permission might be perfectly sensible; evading the need for planning permission is only for the foolhardy. The important thing is to recognise that there is sometimes a narrow distinction between the two. A recent appeal against an enforcement notice requiring the demolition of a garden room at a cottage in Hampshire (DCS Number 400-019-366) illustrates the point.

The appellants in this case contended that the garden room was a freestanding structure not attached to the dwelling as it was 29cm from the house. They maintained that it complied with the provisions of Part 1, Class E of the GPDO, rather than being an extension to the dwelling, to which Class A applied. Defending a claim against them for costs, the planning authority complained that the appellants had “undertaken a calculated and fragrant [sic] breach of planning control in an effort to circumvent policy strictures when it comes to extending development in the National Park.”

The inspector judged that the authority’s view that the structure had been designed and built with the intention of circumventing the planning system to secure a further extension to the dwelling was probably correct. Additionally, he recognised that works carried out subsequent to the notice being served might appear to some as a means of making the detachment of the structure from the house more apparent. However, and this is the important part, he explained that the authority’s concern about the appellants deliberately seeking to circumvent the planning system failed to take account of whether what had been done was actually lawful in the context of the relevant legislation. Had the authority accepted what the GPDO and the Technical Guidance actually say in respect of attachment to a building rather than applied their own interpretation, he continued, the appeals could have been avoided.

The enforcement notice was quashed, with costs being awarded to the appellants.

Section 4.3421 of DCP Online concerns GPDO Part 1 development.