Trigger’s broom or the Ship of Theseus paradox

Fans of ‘Only Fools and Horses’ might remember the sketch when Trigger, the road sweeper, claims to have used the same broom for 20 years….even though it has had 17 new heads and 14 new handles. Also known as the Ship of Theseus paradox – Plutarch asked whether a wooden ship which has had every single piece of wood replaced was still the same ship – this is a question which has perplexed thinkers over the centuries and was before a planning inspector in a recent appeal (DCS Number 400-032-464).

The appeal concerned the refusal of prior approval for residential conversion of a barn under Class Q of the GPDO. The main issue was whether the building was in situ on 20 March 2013 (the relevant date). The appellant asserted that “the original structure of the building exists and it is felt that the building is still classed as original.” 

The inspector, however, remarked that whilst it is not unusual for agricultural buildings to be repaired over time the works that had been undertaken were recent and very extensive. He found that in all likelihood the concrete block walls, roof and steel frame had all been constructed within the previous few years. Other than the corrugated metal sheeting on the walls, which he considered might have been on the original building, he observed that the building appeared to be a different one from that shown in the submitted aerial photographs dating from 1979, 1983 and “1985 onwards”. Furthermore, the roof pitch of the building appeared steeper than the roof pitch of the original building, he noted, and its footprint appeared to be slightly smaller than the footprint of the building shown in the photographs. He concurred with the council’s assessment that the building that existed on the site was not the original building. 

The inspector determined that there was insufficient information to demonstrate that the relevant GPDO conditions, limitations and restrictions had been met and concluded that the proposal did not comprise permitted development. The appeal was dismissed.

Further information on Class Q can be found at section 10.114 of DCP Online.