Great minds think alike about caravans

Last October we reported an appeal case in Norfolk in which the inspector found that touring caravans could be differentiated from static caravans in planning terms, notwithstanding that they fall within the same legal definition (The same but different). This differentiation has now been endorsed in the High Court, as related by an inspector charged with determining a similar appeal in Dorset (DCS Number 200-010-581).

In St Anne’s Court Dorset Ltd v SSHCLG & Dorset Council [2021], the second inspector recorded, it was held that, where a planning permission had been issued for the use of a site for touring caravans, the question of whether use for the stationing of caravans for the purposes of human habitation would constitute a material change of use from the permitted use was a matter of fact and degree. The judge clearly stated, he noted, that “touring caravans” is a functional limitation. 

In considering the appeal before him, against the refusal of a certificate of lawfulness for use as a site for seven static caravans for occupation for holiday accommodation on land authorised for the stationing of five touring caravans, the inspector reasoned that the term “touring” must relate to more than just a caravan’s physical construction. He considered that the way in which touring caravans generally function on site is different from static units. In his experience, the activity around touring caravans was likely to be ephemeral, with awnings and other paraphernalia temporarily used when people are occupying them whilst on holiday. Static units, he said, can lead to more domestic settings. Significantly, though, he pointed out that touring units are generally towed away when the holidaymakers go home whereas static units and any peripheral impacts are more permanent. The inspector also found the size and appearance of the basic types of caravans relevant to consider. He noted that there is a variety to the size of touring caravans and they also come in a variety of specifications, enabling comfortable living conditions including, potentially, use outside of the traditional holiday seasons. However, generally speaking, he said, as well as being transitory, they tend to be smaller than static units, reflecting the need to tow them. Static units, on the other hand, need to be brought onto site by large vehicles and their lack of mobility and semi-permanent connection to services means that they are simply less easy to move around.

Applying these principles to the appeal before him, the inspector judged that the positioning of seven static caravans on site rather than the five touring caravans was a change in the way that the site would function and how it would appear, even if the static units were occupied on the same holiday basis. 

The inspector concluded that the proposal would therefore result in definable changes to the site. These would most clearly relate to the additional visual effects but would also have potential impacts upon sensitive ecological environments. As a matter of fact and degree, he determined that the proposal would involve a material change of use of the land. Accordingly, a certificate of lawfulness was denied. 

Section 24 of DCP Online covers caravans and chalets.