Granny’s Law

The conversion and extension of an outbuilding at a house in the green belt in Essex to a residential annex has been granted planning permission by an inspector, notwithstanding the council’s concern that it would result in the creation of an independent residential unit (DCS Number 400-028-727). This is an issue which comes up not infrequently, so we thought it would be useful to pass on the relevant case law, helpfully set out by the inspector in her decision. 

In reaching its view that the proposal was tantamount to a new dwelling the council referred to Gravesham BC v SSE [1984]. The inspector recorded, however, that in more recent and relevant case law, Uttlesford DC v SSE & White [1992], the judge considered that the conversion of a garage to a granny annex had not resulted in a change of use, stating that even if the accommodation provided facilities for independent day-to-day living [Gravesham], it would not necessarily become a separate planning unit from the main dwelling. Instead it would be a matter of fact and degree. In that case, the inspector explained, the accommodation gave the occupant the facilities of a self-contained unit although it was intended to function as an annex, with the occupant sharing her living activity in company with the family in the main dwelling. There was no reason in law why such accommodation should consequently become a separate planning unit from the main dwelling, she reported.

The inspector noted that reference had also been made to Carter v South Bucks DC [2011]. However, that case was different in that a garage had been converted into a three- bedroomed property with a substantial conservatory extension. It had its own garden, separated from the main dwelling by fencing, trees and shrubs, with no footpath linking the two buildings. Whilst family meals were taken together that was in the substantial garage conversion rather than in the host dwelling. As a matter of fact and degree in that case it was found that a new planning unit had been created. 

In the case before her the inspector noted that whilst the extension and conversion of the outbuilding would provide all the facilities for day-to-day living, it would function as an annex, with the primary occupants also sharing living space, eating and socialising with the rest of their family in the main dwelling. There was a paved footpath between the annex and the main house allowing easy access between the two. As such, she held that the garage conversion would remain part of the same planning unit as the main dwelling.

Based upon the evidence before her the inspector was satisfied that the proposal related to an annex. She allowed the appeal subject to a condition that it should not be severed from the main house by reason of being sold or let as a separate unit of accommodation. 

There is a section on self-contained accommodation in residential outbuildings at 10.2 of DCP Online.