The same but different

In determining a certificate of lawfulness appeal concerning caravans at a Norfolk leisure park (DCS Number 400-032-675) an inspector raised the question as to whether both touring caravans and static caravans can be regarded as the same in legal terms. The site already benefited from planning permission and a certificate of lawfulness allowing touring caravans to remain on the site permanently without ever being moved, and the appellant wished to establish that permanent occupation of static caravans would be similarly lawful. 

The inspector firstly set out the relevant legislation: 

‘S.29(1) of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 as amended sets out that a caravan means any structure designed or adapted for human habitation which is capable of being moved from one place to another (whether by being towed, or by being transported on a motor vehicle or trailer) and any motor vehicle so designed or adapted. S.13(1) of The Caravan Sites Act 1968 as amended (the 1968 Act) defines a twin-unit caravan as a structure designed or adapted for human habitation which is, (a) composed of not more than two sections separately constructed and designed to be assembled on a site by means of bolts, clamps or other devices; and (b), when assembled it is physically capable of being moved by road from one place to another.’

Accordingly, the inspector recognised that no distinction is made between caravans that can be used for touring and caravans that may normally remain on sites but are capable of being moved. In this context he considered that static caravans would come within the statutory definitions. Nevertheless, ‘…might there be some other differentiation in planning terms?’ he asked. In his view, whether a caravan is a static residential unit or a touring caravan can reasonably be discerned through inspection and observation of their physical characteristics. To his mind the most significant possible differences between the two types relate to size and the manner of use. Touring caravans, he reasoned, are typically towed by car and of a size that can be moved without causing any difficulties in terms of public highway interests. A large touring caravan with say five or six berths would probably be no more than about 2.5 metres wide, about 8 metres long, with an overall height of perhaps 2.7 metres. This compared with the significantly larger maximum size of a twin unit caravan, defined in s.13(2) of the 1968 Act as 20 metres long, 6.8 metres wide and 3.05 metres high, and many times greater than is likely for a large touring caravan. Such a caravan is moveable, the inspector acknowledged, but this is usually done on a low trailer towed by a tractor or lorry and might well require an escort on the public highway.

Overall, the inspector considered that the potential differences between static caravans of larger sizes and touring caravans are, as a matter of fact and degree, of such significance that they should be regarded as different entities, and that the existing planning permissions and LDC for the site did not encompass the siting of large static caravans such as could be the case on the site if the appeal were allowed.

The inspector considered that the introduction of static caravans for permanent occupation would be likely to result in a change in character which might well amount to a material change of use requiring an application for planning permission. In this light he considered that the use of the site was limited by the planning permission to the siting of touring caravans. It followed that the council’s decision to refuse the grant of a LDC was well-founded.

Section 24 of DCP Online covers caravans and chalets.