Counting sheep

Overnight guest accommodation provided in a shepherd’s hut in the grounds of a listed hotel in the New Forest would not require planning permission, an appeal inspector has decided (DCS Number 400-026-222).

The inspector identified the principal point at issue as being whether the proposed use would amount to development within the meaning of section 55 of the Act. The council accepted that the proposal would not amount to operational development and that the twin unit shepherd’s hut met the definition of a caravan set out in the relevant legislation. However, the council contended that the use of the shepherd’s hut would amount to a material change of use. As such, the inspector judged it necessary to ascertain the correct planning unit and the present and proposed primary uses of the site. The leading case on the subject is Burdle v SSE [1972], she recorded, explaining that the tests within it start with the unit of occupation and turn on the concept of physical and functional separation.

The parties agreed that the hotel and the grounds comprised one planning unit, the inspector noted. With regard to the physical relationship of the shepherd’s hut, she observed that it would be sited within the grounds of the hotel, not far from the swimming pool and within sight of the main hotel building. It would be connected to the hotel’s water, sewage and power supplies, and access would be via the main hotel building. Turning to how the shepherd’s hut would function, the inspector noted that it would be available to book as hotel accommodation in the same way as other rooms were booked in the hotel. It would be used in the same way as a hotel room, with the occupiers relying on the hotel for food and drink provision.

Taking all this into account, the inspector considered that the proposed use of the shepherd’s hut would be functionally related to the host property and its use as a hotel. In effect, the siting of the shepherd’s hut would amount to the provision of a hotel annexe or an extension. She reasoned that it would be akin to a hotel where there are bedrooms in detached outbuildings within the grounds. She acknowledged the council’s concern that the detached nature of the shepherd’s hut would mean the use would not be the same as a bedroom within the main hotel. However, in her view, distance would not change the use of the accommodation, it would still be used as a bedroom.

The inspector was satisfied that the development would not lead to the creation of a new planning unit. The status of the hotel as a listed building and its location within a conservation area had no bearing on her decision. She concluded as a matter of fact and degree that the siting and use of the shepherd’s hut as proposed would not amount to development requiring planning permission.

The topic of extensions to rural hotels is covered at section 16.5352 of DCP Online and the concept of the planning unit is discussed at section 4.324.