Ad medium fluvium

In dealing with a number of enforcement appeals directed at the change of use of agricultural land alongside the River Medway in Kent to leisure plots the inspector had cause to consider the extent of the planning unit (DCS Number 400-034-976).

The inspector explained that “ ‘Land’ is defined in s336(1) of the 1990 Act as any corporeal hereditament, including a building. The bed and banks of a river constitute a corporeal hereditament but the flow of water does not. With subdivision of the riverbank each riparian owner will normally own the riverbed up to the mid-point of the river.” 

The inspector observed that the riverbed was land outside the area covered by each of the enforcement notices issued in relation to the several plots. Vessels, some of which were named and others not, were moored above the riverbed alongside most plots in the river and all appeared to have some sort of mooring facility on the adjacent riverbank, although the degree of sophistication varied from a simple pole anchored to the ground to more sophisticated apparatus such as pontoons and landing stages. He reasoned that the planning unit to be considered should take account of the connection between the land used for mooring boats and the riverbed on which the boats were moored, as well as the overall use of the land. 

The inspector considered that the appropriate unit to consider was larger than the plots suggested by the council and should comprise all 31 plots including the extent of the riverbed that belonged to the riparian owners. He considered the submissions made against that position but determined that the planning unit was the stretch of the riverbank and riverbed “ad medium fluvium” (up to the mid-point of the river). 

Section 24.631 of DCP Online considers the maverick nature of plotland development and its challenges to planning orthodoxy.