Sunny Devon

This year has been pretty awful for the tourism industry but 2021 is now looking altogether brighter for the owner of a holiday caravan park in north Devon, having secured a lawful development certificate for an unrestricted number of caravans (DCS Number 400-028-391). At appeal, an inspector ruled that the number of caravans was no longer bound by the original planning permission for 45 caravans.

The initial planning permission was granted in 1968, the inspector recorded. Its description was “Use of land as site for 45 caravans and construction of toilet block and septic tank”. Subsequent applications to vary conditions in order to allow year-round use were permitted. It was common ground, the inspector noted, that none of the permissions was subject to a planning condition that restricted the number of caravans. 

The inspector identified the nub of the appellant’s case as being that there was no controlling condition. In this, the appellant cited I’m Your Man Limited v Secretary of State for the Environment [1998], R (on the application of Altunkaynack) v Northamptonshire Magistrates Court and Kettering BC [2012] and Cotswold Grange Country Park LLP v SSCLG & Tewkesbury BC [2014]. These, he said, supported his contention that in the absence of a condition controlling the number of caravans at the site, his certificate should have been issued.

The inspector agreed that the I’m Your Man case had strong parallels with the appeal case. In that judgment, he recorded, the Court held that the description of development alone did not restrict the use permitted by a grant of planning permission; a condition to this effect was required. This principle was revisited and supported in the Altunkaynack and Cotswold Grange Country Park cases. 

The council argued, further, that the intensification of an existing use may comprise a material change of use that would constitute development. It accepted that mere intensification would not of its own equate to a material change of use, there would need to be a material change in character as well. It stated that, given its open countryside location, any significant intensification would result in a material change to the definable appearance and character of the land when compared to its present use. Therefore, there would be a material change of use. 

The inspector reasoned, however, that as there was no condition restricting the number of caravans that might be sited at the holiday park, the lawful number was unlimited in planning terms. Therefore, there could be no increase that would lead to a material change of character, and thus a material change of use, as there was no base figure against which such a change might be assessed.

The inspector concluded that the proposal to use the land for the siting of more than 45 caravans occupied for holiday purposes on the land would be lawful because it fell within the terms of the relevant planning permissions.

Section 4.4114 of DCP Online contains further I’m Your Man cases and also has a link to the Cotswold Grange Country Park appeal decision.