Boomerang children

Economic and social changes have meant that these days children very often grow up, leave the family home to lead independent lives….and then come back again.

An interesting appeal case concerning an agricultural occupancy condition on a dwelling in Yorkshire sought to exploit this phenomenon (DCS Number 400-022-725). The condition stated that the occupation of the dwelling was limited to a person solely or mainly employed in agriculture in the locality, including any dependants, or a widow or widower of such a person. The appellants sought a certificate of lawfulness on the basis that the dwelling had been occupied in breach of the condition by a financially independent child for over ten years.

The inspector decided that the appeal turned on the meaning of the word “dependant”. He recorded that after the death of the farmer the house had been occupied by his widow and two young daughters. Moving on in time, the daughters had become financially independent and moved away. However, the eldest daughter returned to live at the farmhouse in 2005. The appellants’ case was that on returning to live at the property, her employment status and age meant that the eldest daughter was no longer dependent on her mother in terms of financial and emotional care and support. Accordingly, they argued, from this time the eldest daughter was in breach of the restrictive condition as she no longer met the definition of a ‘dependant’.

The inspector recorded that in the Court of Appeal the case of Shortt & Shortt v SSCLG & Tewkesbury BC [2015] explored the meaning of the term ‘dependant’. The court found that as a matter of ordinary language, “dependants” is capable of referring to relationships involving emotional support without financial dependency. The inspector was not persuaded that a financially dependent adult can be considered as having broken all ties of dependency on a parent. Indeed, he found in the case before him that the change in personal circumstances of the eldest daughter suited a return to live at the farmhouse. It seemed reasonable to him to interpret this as part and parcel of the emotional support that would naturally have been provided to her in a family setting. Accordingly, the daughters would not lose the status of dependants, and would continue to be able to occupy the farmhouse without breaching the subject planning condition.

The inspector concluded that a ‘dependant’ is not limited to describing a child depending on an adult but may also be identified by the interdependency between adults. The council’s decision was well-founded and the appeal must fail, he determined.

Section 9.341 of DCP Online concerns the standard agricultural occupancy condition.