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Don’t forget Mothering Sunday!

A farm business in the Surrey green belt has succeeded in gaining permission for a barn to be used in association with lavender production on the holding, although it will not be able to realise its hopes of making soap (DCS Number 200-004-725).

Appeals against the refusal of planning permission for a partially completed barn on the site and an enforcement notice requiring its removal had been dismissed previously. That inspector had concluded that the production of soap was a manufacturing process but that the production of lavender oil was ancillary to the agricultural use of lavender growing, by reference to a decision in Millington v SSETR [1998]. He commented that whilst a relatively niche activity it was not dissimilar to the process required to produce wine, cider or apple juice and considered that it could be regarded as falling within ‘ordinary and reasonable’ agricultural practice. Accordingly, he had concluded that the use of the building would be a mixed use for agriculture and ancillary purposes (including lavender production) and also the production of soap.

The appellant now sought permission for retention of part of the barn instead. The current inspector recognised that removal of the element of soap production had led to a commensurate reduction in the size and scale of the building. The proposed building would now be used for the existing agricultural needs of the farm together with the needs of the growing of lavender and the production of lavender oil, he determined. This time, the inspector allowed the appeal, concluding that the proposal was not inappropriate development in the green belt.

This is an interesting albeit unusual case because as the inspector indicates there are a number of other types of produce and processes which might be analogous.

The following DCP chapter is relevant: 22.1135

Nice try

The retention of a building ‘for feed preparation and as a shelter (for agricultural workers)’ on a farm in Leicestershire was denied a lawful development certificate after an inspector was unable to conclude that the building was required for the purposes of agriculture (DCS Number 400-010-680).

The inspector envisaged that such a building would have basic facilities such as an area set aside for animal feedstuffs and their preparation possibly in the form of a kitchen, and a further room for shelter with rudimentary furnishings. Within the building, however, there were a number of rooms including a kitchen, a lounge/dining area, two bedrooms and a bathroom. The building was furnished with curtains, a bed, a dining table with chairs, a child’s rocking horse, a large television and sofas. Outside, there was a garden and planters. The inspector considered that this displayed all the attributes of a dwellinghouse.

Nice try, but no.

The following DCP chapter is relevant: 22.1321

What difference does it make?

Two recent cases have set the team wondering about the rationale behind the wording of the GPDO.

In (DCS Number 400-010-438) permission for the residential conversion of a building in Devon under Class P, Part 3, Schedule 2 of the GPDO was denied because it had not been used solely for a storage or distribution centre use. The inspector noted that the building was being utilised for storage purposes in connection with the appellant’s own business, for paid storage purposes by others, and for some minor domestic storage. He held that some of those purposes, such as the storage paid for by others, could be said to fall within Use Class B8. However, other purposes were connected to the appellant’s permaculture activities on the wider site. This would not fall under the ambit of Use Class B8, but was storage which was ancillary to the primary use of the site for the purposes of permaculture. The building was therefore being used for a mixture of purposes and the conversion was not one that is permitted by Class P of the 2015 Order.

In west London the residential conversion of a recruitment office was denied permission under Class O of Part 3, Schedule 2 of the GPDO because the office use was deemed to fall within Use Class A2 rather than Use Class B1a (DCS Number 400-010-635). The appellant argued that the first and second floor premises did not have a ground floor frontage and were not open to visiting members of the public. The inspector pointed out, however, that there is nothing within Class A2 which stipulates that such uses are required to have a ground floor presence or to be open to visiting members of the public.

Scrutiny of the GPDO reveals no reason to challenge either inspector’s decision. The challenge lies in discovering the logic behind the GPDO’s differentiation between different types of storage uses and different types of office uses.

The following DCP chapter is relevant: 4.3423

How to win long-term advertisement consent in a city centre

Manchester City Council was overruled on its refusal of advertisement consent for a scaffold shroud advertisement measuring 20m by 10m screening the exposed side of a listed building in a central conservation area (DCS Number 400-010-560).

The council was concerned that the retention of the advertisement for a further 12 months, after already having been in place for over two years, could delay potential development of the adjacent site due to the income that would be generated from the advertisement, which would cause the site to remain vacant and undeveloped and cause the listed building to further deteriorate.

The inspector found it fanciful to presume that a landowner would forgo the opportunity of the capital value and revenue opportunities that could accrue from a new building on a prime city centre site simply in order to maintain an income stream from a scaffold shroud screen advertisement. He acknowledged that it was preferable that the site, which was vacant and derelict, should be re-developed to a suitably high standard in fairly short order. However, allowing the appeal, he decided that retention was a necessary and acceptable expedient in the short term.

Provided that the financial assumptions inherent in this decision are correct, negotiations concerning the redevelopment of the site might well see progress within the life of the consent. If, on the other hand, the greater economic benefit lies in the prolonged display of the advertisement, Manchester’s suspicions will be proven to be well-founded. And it will also send a signal to the advertising industry that there is gain to be had from perpetuating the dereliction of city centre sites.

The following DCP chapter is relevant: 30.0342

‘A dual-pitched roof’ means one dual-pitched roof, not two dual-pitched roofs

A householder in Buckinghamshire failed to convince an inspector that a curtilage swimming pool building would be permitted development, the inspector ruling that ‘a dual-pitched roof’ excludes buildings with two dual-pitched roofs (DCS Number 400-010-392).

The proposed building would have a central ridge with a dual-pitched roof, a projecting gable with a dual-pitched roof set below the ridge line of the main roof, and a lean-to on one flank. This arrangement would result in five different roof pitches. The appellant suggested that the term dual-pitched was used by legislators in the GPDO to differentiate between commonly found roof types and that it was not intended to restrict particular design styles.

The inspector acknowledged that the Technical Guidance states that ‘the height limit on a dual-pitched roof should also be applied to buildings that have hipped roofs (slopes on all four sides)’. He ruled, however, that the term ‘dual-pitched roof’ is very specific, and was not persuaded that the intention of the GPDO was to permit alternative roof forms with multiple pitches of the kind proposed. He concluded that the building would not have a dual-pitched roof. As a consequence, the maximum permitted height of the structure would be 3 metres. The building would be above that limit and, accordingly, would not constitute permitted development under the terms of the GPDO.  The council’s failure to grant a LDC in respect of the proposed detached swimming pool building was well-founded, he determined.

The following DCP chapter is relevant: 4.3421

The perils of good neighbourliness

An appellant in Middlesex found himself with an unlawful extension after falling foul of the prior application procedure regulations (DCS Number 200-004-604).

The appellant proposed a 6m deep single storey extension to his semi-detached house under the prior application procedure and no objections were received from neighbours. A No Objection response was issued by default once 42 days had elapsed, an inspector recorded, and was therefore permitted development. The appellant then started to build the extension but a neighbour raised a concern about its position in relation to their shared access. Accordingly, the appellant decided to set in part of the side wall of the extension adjacent to the shared drive by some 600mm for a distance of 2.84m from the end elevation. In addition, the internal arrangement was altered, and a window was omitted from the end elevation and was instead inserted into the side elevation facing the shared access. In order to regularize the development the appellant then submitted an application for a certificate of lawful development.

The inspector acknowledged that the building was no bigger than the 6m limit on larger extensions that can be dealt with by way of the prior notification process and that it was smaller than shown on the plans originally submitted with the appellant’s notification. Nevertheless, she agreed with the council that what had been built was materially different from that which was the subject of the prior notification. Since there was no agreement to any variation to the plans to accord with what had been built, the extension was not permitted development, and furthermore, no express planning permission has been granted. The inspector acknowledged that the appellant believed that the change in design was minor, and that it was done with the confirmation of the neighbour in the interests of good relations. She nevertheless concluded that the council’s refusal to grant a certificate of lawful use or development in respect of the single storey rear extension was well-founded and that the appeal should fail.

The council stated that they would have carried out the notification of local residents again had revised plans been submitted before construction, and this might have been the right thing to do as it appears that the neighbour wavered over the side window in the extension. From the appellant’s point of view, however, the stated intention set out in the PPG that the statutory requirements for prior approval should be much less prescriptive than those relating to planning applications must ring somewhat hollow.

The following DCP chapter is relevant: 4.3421

The importance of consistency in decision-making OR a tale of two barns

The residential conversion of a Dutch barn in Somerset under the prior notification procedure was dismissed notwithstanding the council’s failure to give notice of its decision within 56 days (DCS Number 400-010-371).

The inspector ruled that he had to consider the proposal against the regulations in force at the time of the council’s decision. Accordingly, he considered it against Class MB of Schedule 2, Part 3 of the 1995 GPDO. The council was concerned that the proposed building operations went beyond the scope of what was reasonably necessary for the building to function as a dwellinghouse. The appellant contended that there was no mechanism in the regulations for the inspector to consider the council’s concerns by virtue of its failure to give him notification of its decision within the requisite period.  It seemed to the inspector, however, that in order to allow the appeal he must first satisfy himself that the conditions, limitations and restrictions specified in Class MB were complied with. The proposed conversion scheme involved the insertion of a new first floor. The inspector recorded that the insertion of a floor was not included in the list of building operations permissible under Paragraph MB.1(i). This effectively precluded the scheme from being permitted development under Class MB, he determined.

In Bedfordshire, on the other hand, the conversion of a barn into two dwellings under the prior notification procedure was allowed despite highway safety concerns (DCS Number 400-010-429) after the council failed to notify the applicant of its decision within 56 days. The application was made under the 1995 GPDO but the inspector nevertheless treated it as made under the 2015 GPDO. The council identified highway impacts arising from intensification of use, requiring the provision of visibility splays to achieve safe access. The appellant’s visibility plan indicated that the provision of splays would involve the removal of trees and vegetation but no tree survey was provided. Accordingly, the council refused the application on the basis of insufficient information to determine whether the location or siting of the building made it impractical or undesirable for it to change from agricultural to residential use, on the basis of potential harm to the character and appearance of the area. The inspector recorded, however, that the council had failed to notify the appellant of the prior approval decision within the requisite period. This meant, he ruled, that deemed consent was granted in terms of paragraph Q.2 of the GPDO, and that the council could not refuse prior approval.

So, both applications were made under the 1995 GPDO. Both councils failed to notify the appellant within 56 days. The Bedfordshire appellant gains his permission, the Somerset appellant does not. That must, at the very least, appear to be unfair.

The following DCP chapter is relevant: 4.3423

Did the earth move for you?

Objectors to the retention of a 15m high wind turbine on a Staffordshire farm were concerned that vibrations from the turbine would disturb the breeding of brown hares (DCS Number 400-010-313). The inspector recorded, however, that a report produced by Keele University on the likely impact of ground-borne vibrations from turbines concluded that the level of vibrations from wind turbines is so small that only the most sophisticated instrumentation can reveal their presence and they are almost impossible to detect. He acknowledged that animals have heightened senses but found nothing to suggest that a single wind turbine of the scale erected would have a material impact on the breeding pattern of the brown hare. He therefore concluded that the turbine did not present an unacceptable risk to local biodiversity.

If anything, it might have helped leporid lovemaking along, mightn’t it?

The following DCP chapter is relevant: 26.5326

Continuing the easing of rural restraint theme

A planning obligation restricting the occupation of a bungalow on the edge of a village in west Yorkshire to a person living and working locally was discharged, an inspector deciding that it no longer served a useful purpose (DCS Number 400-010-286).

The restriction required the occupation of the dwelling to be limited to people who lived and worked in the local area for an established business and in housing need in the area and that if it was marketed for sale it must be at a price no greater than 75 per cent of its open market value. The bungalow had not been marketed, the appellant estimating that there had been a loss of between 600 and 700 jobs in the local area in the previous 20 years as a result of the closure of the four main textile mills. This was not disputed by the council and it had not provided any information about employers in the local area. The inspector therefore assumed that there were indeed few employment opportunities. It also seemed unlikely, she held, that someone defined by the council as in housing need would be able to purchase the detached stone cottage, even with the reduction. She reasoned that while such restrictions were often used in areas such as national parks to ensure that there was a supply of housing that was affordable to local people in housing need, the site was outside the national park and there was no local work in the area. She concluded that the chance of finding someone who fulfilled the criteria was very small.

This is a slightly unusual case in that one wonders whether the council would not have done better to have placed a full stop after the ‘living and working locally and in housing need’ part of the restriction. Thus, the value of the property would have been brought down to whatever such a person was able to pay. Even accounting for a 25 per cent discount on open market value a desirable stone-built detached bungalow would be likely to be beyond the grasp of a person in housing need, as the inspector concluded.

The following DCP chapter is relevant: 9.142

Some practice points

In granting permission for a crematorium in a Lakeland area of outstanding natural beauty (DCS Number 200-004-572) an inspector referred to the requirements of the Cremation Act 1902. This Act advises that sites should be at least 200 yards from any dwelling unless the owner, lessee or occupier has given their consent in writing, and at least 50 yards from a public highway. He reasoned that whilst this would not necessarily preclude urban sites there would seem to be support for the contention that crematoria should be situated within rural locations and in all likelihood within the open countryside.

The following DCP chapter is relevant: 26.135

In dismissing  an agricultural building for the storage of agricultural plant and machinery in Somerset (DCS Number 200-004-574) an inspector judged that the use of the site would be more akin to an agricultural contractor’s storage depot. She held that such a use does not fall within the definition of agriculture as set out in section 336 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The council drew attention to an appeal decision (DCS Number 400-004-955), where the inspector was of the same opinion and to ‘Development Control Practice’ which provides at paragraph 21.1153 that “It is sometimes argued that agricultural contracting uses are ancillary to agricultural use, but this would only be the case if such a use was limited to the needs of the farming unit itself.” With no evidence to the contrary the inspector saw no reason to disagree with these approaches, which added further weight to her view.

The following DCP chapter is relevant: 21.1

An LDC was issued for a mobile home in Devon after the council mistook the period required to establish immunity from enforcement (DCS Number 400-010-297). The council considered that because the caravan had been unoccupied since June 2014, the appellants had failed to demonstrate a continuous period of occupation in excess of 10 years. The inspector pointed out, however, that the council’s approach appeared to have been to look at the 10 years immediately preceding the date of the application for the LDC, rather than the 10 years beginning with the date of breach required by S.171B(3) of the Act. She noted that the date on which the breach began could be established as 26 February 2003 so that by 27 February 2013 the use of the land for the siting of a caravan for residential use had become lawful due to the passing of 10 years. She explained that there is no specific requirement (as there was under the old Established Use Certificate regime) that a use must be subsisting at the date of an application for an LDC. Once a use has become lawful, it can be regarded as having continued for planning purposes even though it might have become inactive on the ground, provided only that it has not been abandoned, or superseded by a different use or new chapter in the planning history of the site.

The following DCP chapter is relevant: 4.535