DC Caravan sales
Caravan sales 13.513
Caravans are obviously not “motor” vehicles, (although motor caravans would be) and therefore do not fall within the exclusion in Article 3(6) of the Use Classes Order. However, an Inspector accepted an argument in an appeal against an enforcement notice (Brighton BC 14/2/85 DCS No.040-436-028) that a caravan may be a “vehicle” albeit without a motor, drawing a comparison with a hansom cab. Thus development descriptions or conditions using this term can also be argued to cover caravans.
In the past a use for the open air sale of caravans is likely to be deemed sui generis following the judgment in Cawley v S.O.S. 21/2/90 although the correctness of this decision is now seriously in doubt (see 4.332). In (Weymouth & Portland BC 27/10/94 038-216-613) an LDC was granted for the open sale of caravans from land previously used as a garden centre. The SOS reasoned that there was insufficient material difference between the existing and proposed uses.
Ancillary to another use?: Caravan sales have been held not to be ancillary to a caravan park (Guildford B.C. 30/1/95 DCS No.040-736-314) or a garden centre (Weymouth & Portland BC 27/10/94 038-216-613).
Whether vehicle sales ancillary to other uses? 13.514
Filling stations/repair garages 13.5141
At filling stations/repair garages, a limited amount of vehicle sales use may be regarded as de minimis, and many local authorities treat the display of a few cars at the side of forecourts as an ancillary activity. However, when numbers increase, judgements that a material change of use has occurred to a mixed use, are common.
In a case in Scotland, (Glasgow City Council 7/9/89 DCS No.055-221-411) the display of 10/15 cars was thought to be quite distinct from a primary use of a site as a filling station and repair garage. In another case (Bolsover DC 25/2/94 036-370-763) the display of 15 cars at a car repair workshop was considered to introduce a mixed use of the site requiring permission, and in (Shepway DC 19/7/93 048-192-510) it was felt that a material change of use had occurred from low key “word of mouth” car sales element at a repair garage to an activity specifically designed to draw passing trade. Here 8 cars was considered to be a material change of use, the same figure as in (City of Wakefield 6/1/05 DCS No.039-647-105). Here it was held that eight cars was excessive for a small site. An inspector noted that the display area was a separate part of the site, and the siting was clearly designed to attract passing trade. In addition cars were advertised in the local press. In an enforcement case in Gloucestershire (South Gloucs DC 27/9/01 DCS No 049-851-002), a Local Planning Authority argued that a change from ancillary car sales on a petrol forecourt to use of the whole site for car sales when petrol sales ceased, was material and had happened within the previous 10 years. The Planning Inspector agreed but allowed the appeal on its planning merits. A similar case involving the use of a former filling station in Hampshire for the sale of cars had a different outcome (Hart DC 7/10/04 DCS No. 039-189-152). An enforcement notice was upheld, after the inspector concluded that its re-use as a petrol station would lead to less visual harm, that the canopy, sales building and hardstanding would remain whatever the outcome of the appeal. The cars displayed for sale were particularly prominent and their coverage of the site was extensive and had a significant urbanising effect.
Hart: re-use as a petrol station would lead to less visual harm
In cases where vehicle sales are taking place from a distinct area of a garage site set aside for the purpose or where a different business is responsible for the vehicle sales, it is highly likely that a new planning unit (see 4.3244) has been formed with a new primary use taking place thereon.
The overt display and sale of cars from the frontage or garden of a house is likely to alter the character of the property to a significant extent and would therefore normally be considered to be a material change of use. The occasional displaying for sale of a householder’s own vehicle would however be considered to fall within the “incidental to the enjoyment” criterion found in sec. 55(2)(d) of the 1990 Act.
The following appeal cases are of interest
Enforcement action was taken against classic car sales at a house in a village. The appellant claimed that the use was incidental to the enjoyment of the dwellinghouse. The cars on the land belonged to colleagues and fellow car enthusiasts for whom he occasionally bought and sold vehicles. The council produced evidence that the cars were on the land to be sold to the general public by means of advertisements. An inspector noted that it appeared that cars were being stored with a view to selling them. It was considered that the presence of 11 cars belonging to other people in a prominent position taking up all the space in front of the house could not be considered “incidental”. The inspector considered that although the appellant had not been operating a fully fledged motor trading business, and it had been running down, there had been a breach of planning control. The notice was amended to require no more than 5 vehicles to be kept at the premises overall and that no business other than an “incidental” one be carried out (South Gloucestershire DC 26/10/98 DCS No. 049-314-242).
An enforcement notice alleged the retail sale of cars from a house The appellant argued that a business was not being run although the sale of single cars had taken place. The council produced evidence of 21 vehicles being advertised over a five month period. An inspector felt that there was evidence that vehicles had been sold from the appeal premises on a regular basis. A business was being carried out on an almost permanent basis While the occasional advertising of a car owned by an occupant of an house would be “incidental” the frequency here could not reasonably be so regarded The notice was upheld (Braintree DC 22/3/99 DCS No. 048-982-454).
In a case in Newport, it was proposed to re-surface the front garden of a dwellinghouse for the parking of used cars for sale and retain 4 security cameras within a predominantly residential area. The inspector considered that the extension of the area already used for the parking of 4×4 vehicles would not harm visual amenity. The direction and view of the cameras could be controlled by condition (Newport County BC 6/7/00 DCS No 048-587-594).
Car sales uses at dwellings often spill over onto the public highway and this matter is normally dealt with separately by the appropriate highway authority. It is of note that in Runnymede BC v Fulke-Greville and Another 10/10/1996 the court granted an injunction referring to the carrying out of a business as a motor trader in the grounds of a house in breach of an enforcement notice, and relating to use of the public highway for parking or storing vehicles so as to cause an obstruction.
Car sales are occasionally a part of a scrapyard use, but is may be extremely difficult to show that such a use is ancillary unless there is strong linkage to the primary use of the site. As a scrap use involves the breaking up of expired or damaged cars rather than their repair and resale such a linkage is tenuous. In an enforcement case in Lincolnshire, unauthorised vehicle auctions from a scrap-yard where small scale individual sales had historically taken place, were considered to require permission (ground g) and were unacceptable due to traffic concerns (West Lindsey 15/5/97 DCS No 038-204-901). This case demonstrates the judgements of “fact and degree” that are necessary when considering whether an ancillary use has intensified sufficiently to become a new primary use.
In an Ombudsman case (92/C/0385) a local authority had issued an Established Use Certificate for a car sales use which had been ancillary to a ceased scrapyard use. It was held that maladministration had occurred in that no account had been taken of the fact that a material change of use had occurred at the time when the scrap use ceased.
Activities ancillary to vehicle sales 13.515
The only activities likely to be considered as ancillary to car sales are a sales office, valeting, washing battery charging and other minor preparation matters necessary to the sale of cars.
In (Hertsmere D.C. 18/10/83 DCS No.046-058-500) the de-waxing of new cars was held to be ancillary, and in (Cardiff City Council 27/8/91 DCS No.033-401-514) the fitting of optional items such as tow-bars and alarms was held to be ancillary to a car showroom use.
Portable offices and other “structures” 13.516
The use of portable buildings as offices at open air car sales lots is a common feature. Whilst a sales office is a necessary ancillary of vehicle sales, it may be debated whether such an office is operational development. A typical case is (Chiltern D.C. 15/5/87 DCS No.035-250-546) where an inspector judged that a portable building which rested on adjustable feet and was connected to telephone and electricity services, could not be moved without being lifted by crane. It was operational development. However, in many other ones portable buildings or cabins have been found to require permission, and discussion on this point is to be found at (4.3112) and (14.112). A combined enforcement and LDC appeal related partly to the placing of racks used for the transport and storage of cars at a vehicle workshop in Daventry (Daventry DC 19/2/01 DCS No 045-237-300). The appellant argued that the placing of the racks did not constitute a building operation since they were brought onto the site by lorry, unloaded and moved around the site by fork list trucks. They were not buildings, the appellant claimed because they were not attached to the ground and were not permanent. The inspector observed that each rack was 6.18 m high, 2 m wide and 3.8 m deep. They stored eight cars, four cars high and were not fixed to the ground in any way. Having regard to the tests laid down in Barvis v SSE (1971) relating to size, permanence and physical attachment, the inspector held that they were not buildings. They were readily capable of being moved within the site and to other locations and therefore overall no development was involved. The inspector also granted permission for continued use of the site as a vehicle repair and dismantling facility.
Daventry: placing of racks used for the transport and storage of cars not development
Changes in the type of vehicles displayed for sale 13.517
Where a lawful use exists for sale or display for sale of motor vehicles, it may be very difficult to argue that a change in the type of vehicles on the site would constitute a material change of use. Motor vehicles vary considerably in size as well as whether they are intended for private or commercial use. Therefore a general vehicle sales use can cover many possible ways of trading. In an enforcement appeal in West Sussex (Arun DC 26/06/02 DCS No 038-327-817) the council alleged that a change of use of a domestic curtilage had occurred to a mixed use including the storage, repair, maintenance and display of motor vehicles. The Inspector had serious reservations about the council’s argument that although vehicles had been displayed and sold from the site continuously for more than 10 years, a change from private car sales within the first 5 years to light vans and pick-ups in subsequent years, constituted a material change. He considered there had not been a change in the nature of the vehicles displayed and allowed the ‘ground d’ appeal, quashing the notice.
Control practice 13.53
Open air vehicle sales uses are not usually regarded in a favourable light by most local authorities for a variety of reasons, ranging from their admittedly poor visual appearance in the urban or rural scene, to perceptions of seediness or even sub-criminality in the used car trade, which probably owe more to television dramas than to reality. As a result applicants for planning permission have not only to argue the planning merits of their schemes but also overcome a certain amount of prejudice. Many of the objections levelled against alfresco car sales activities diminish considerably if vehicles are to be displayed in showrooms.
Many planning applications for vehicle sales uses, mainly of course car sales, are also related to other activities such a filling stations and repair garages, and there is an extensive history of enforcement against various mixes of these uses and other related commercial activities (see 13.514 & 13.55). For this reason the planning issues which relate to uses for vehicle sales on their own may be clouded by the cumulative impact of all the uses involved. In cases where car sales are proposed as an additional use at a petrol station or repair garage, a scenario which provides the commonest form of car sales planning application, it is notable that at appeal the existing commercial ambience of sites is not often seen as a significant argument in favour, although there are exceptions as noted overleaf.
Planning policy issues are seldom raised by vehicle sales uses save for those relating to rural restraint, retention of pre-existing uses and the preservation of urban character. Naturally enough vehicle sales uses are inimical to conservation areas. Some local plans have policies which seek to limit forecourt parking for car sales at existing showrooms, filling stations and garages, and permissions for such uses are often bear a condition to this effect (see 13.54).
Amenity, character and appearance 13.531
Vehicle sales and the paraphernalia that goes along with them are sometimes considered to be acceptable with valued judgement being taken regarding the qualities of the area as well as the relationship with surrounding residential premises. Petrol filling stations are frequently the proposed for change to car sales and this may be as a result in the growth of supermarket petrol forecourts making smaller facilities less viable. Petrol filling stations can be difficult to redevelop for residential use due to the expense in de-commissioning fuel tanks as well as dealing with historic contamination. Vehicle sales can be an obvious potential re-use of such sites. As an inspector described in a case in Westcliffe-on-Sea (Southend 6/5/97 DCS No 040-736-734) there may be some advantages of such a change such as reduced vehicle movements and less general activity. Some of the following cases also show that such use can be accepted even within sensitive urban areas such as Conservation Areas where developments are required to at least preserve the character or appearance of the area.
An inspector decided that the retention of rota-spikes erected on top of boundary walls at a site used for the sale of cars in a conservation area, were acceptable provided they were painted black instead of their bright blue (Liverpool 20/5/05 DCS No 100-037-337). However the appeal was a split decision and barbed wire fence above part of the wall at the rear of the site and metal cladding of the buildings were dismissed.
The redevelopment of a car showroom and workshops to provide enlarged facilities in a village was allowed because it preserved the setting of a conservation area (Malvern Hills DC 27/1/05 DCS No. 050-891-418). An inspector found that the proposed buildings, like the existing buildings, would sit well back from the edge of the road where they would be screened by existing tree cover. He remarked that much was made of the modern design and materials of the new buildings, which the council and others alleged would be in contrast to the traditional appearance of buildings in the conservation area. He held that much depended on whether they would appear incongruous, but found that they would be masked to a considerable degree from the closest buildings within the area. In addition, he found that the new buildings, with their clean cut lines, would be an improvement over the jumble of outdated existing buildings on the site. The inspector also found no conflict with a local plan policy, which set out criteria against which extensions to employment development were to be assessed.
A former petrol filling station in Solihull was proposed to be used for car sales and up to 30 vehicles would be parked on the former forecourt (Birmingham City C 9/5/00 DCS No 028-366-318). The Inspector in allowing the appeal considered that whilst ranks of cars would be unattractive, the implementation of a planting scheme would break up their visual dominance and activity associated with a petrol filling station would have a greater impact on living conditions than the proposed car sales use.
If a previous use also involved open sales it may be judged that this is sufficient precedent for a car sales use. In (Wolverhampton M.B. 25/11/85 054-099-905) car sales and a portakabin were allowed on a site used for the sale of timber buildings.
In a case near Slough (South Bucks D.C. 27/6/90 DCS No 100-022-372) an inspector felt that although a site was in a pleasant residential area there would be little additional harm. He thought that the intrusive effect of displayed cars would not be greater than petrol pumps with associated vehicles and need for advertising signs would be similar. He concluded that, with conditions which limited hours of operation and limitations on the areas to be devoted to parked cars for sale, the change of use was acceptable.
However, in many other situations judgements are likely to be made that a car sales use is a feature of the urban scene which is out of character on visual and activity grounds. Particular exception is often taken not only to the visual impact of large numbers of parked cars on open sites, but also to the associated clutter including coloured price stickers, other advertisements, flags, on site lighting columns, wire mesh fences as well as the harm to living conditions through off-loading, parking and moving vehicles. In the Gillingham case described at (13.532) an inspector thought that parked cars with windscreen or roof mounted “For Sale” signs materially damaged the street scene and hence the amenities of residents.
Citation of a few dismissed appeal cases serves to show the strength of such objections.
An enforcement notice directed against the sale and display of vehicles at premises in Surrey with an authorised use for vehicle storage and valeting was upheld on the grounds of harm to the amenities of nearby residents and to traffic and parking conditions and safety (Sutton BC 19/07/2007 DCS No. 100-049-551). The introduction of car sales resulted in a substantial change in the character of use. Car sales were very dependant on weekend business and there had been significant weekend activity on the site, markedly noticeable to residents and weekend activity was banned by the permissions for the storage and valeting uses. Sounds of bonnets being opened, alarms, doors, radios and engines being tested, cars being shunted around and prices being negotiated contributed towards harm to residential amenity.
A car sales site was proposed next to an existing filling station on the fringe of Uckfield town centre. Nevertheless an inspector considered that the development to be unsympathetic as a frontage use (Wealden D.C. 19/1/90 DCS No.054-887-911).
A scheme involving a Land Rover active display area at a dealership on the outskirts of a Hertfordshire village was approved by a Planning Inspector despite concerns regarding the effects of noise, disturbance and pollution on living conditions of nearby properties (Dacorum BC 01/07/1999 DCS No. 035-151-688). Noise levels associated with the use of the area by two vehicles would lead to a change in the background noise of 1.1 dB(A) and there was little likelihood of pollution. Condition limiting the hours of operation as well as the number of traverses by vehicles was imposed to no more than 10 during the week and 5 on Saturday. This latter restriction raises issues regarding the practicalities of enforcing such a condition.
Enforcement action was taken regarding an existing car sales business that had been extended by incorporating rear gardens of shops with flats adjoining. An inspector thought that the business needs cited by the appellant company should not override the disadvantages of the unauthorised use. A commercial activity had been introduced into an area which was essentially residential in character and amenity land removed. Use of the narrow access to the site would be increased leading to noise and disturbance, as well as being unsuitable for intensive use (Bristol City Council 6/12/88 DCS No.053-589-592).
An enforcement notice was upheld (with variation) by a Planning Inspector in relation to car sales from a shop in Heavily, near Stockport. The use resulted in on street parking and congestion which caused harm to the living conditions of nearby properties (Stockport M.B.C. 7/7/00 DCS No 039-020-214). However. the Inspector allowed the linked S78 appeal which provided for an improved parking area. Planning permission was granted but with a personal condition (to the applicant) due partly to the high value cars sales being a limited niche market as well as a limiting the number of cars displayed for sale to 8.
Three twelve metre flag poles were rejected at a Renault showroom in London, due to their harmful visual impact on the appeal site and the surrounding area (Enfield BC 24/05/2005 DCS No 100-037-417). An inspector observed that the car showroom was under construction and situated within a retail park. The three flagpoles would be situated adjacent to the entrance and twelve metre high flagpoles with six metre high flags would be excessively intrusive in the location.
An inspector upheld a council’s decision to refuse permission to lower the height of a fence to 0.9 metres from 2 metres adjacent to land used for the display for sale of used cars (Epson & Ewell BC 31/8/01 DCS No 048-820-966). The council had imposed a condition on a 1975 permission requiring that a close-boarded fence should be retained in order to protect the amenity of the street scene which was predominantly residential. If the fence were lowered along a 10 metre stretch it would bring about a profound change in the character of the street scene. The display for sale of vehicles together with ancillary commercial activities would become the dominant feature and this would be compounded by harm to residential amenity. The appellants needs to enclose the site did not outweigh the harm to the street scene.
Portakabins and similar temporary offices may also be seen as having an adverse amenity effect, particularly on street scenes. For instance in (Kettering B.C. 15/2/89 DCS No.047-576-365) an inspector found that such a structure at a filling station/repair car sales use was unacceptably out of keeping with the general appearance of this stretch of road (the A6). He noted that commercial, mainly car orientated uses, dominated the appeal site side of the road but thought that the proposal was out of keeping with “traditional” buildings opposite, including a listed building.
Visual amenity objections may be set aside in circumstances where car sales use is to be a temporary use of land, such as where a future comprehensive development is proposed, and in such circumstances a limited period approval may bethought appropriate. The question of whether limited period conditions may be applied to car sales uses generally is discussed at (13.54).
Traffic and parking issues 13.532
Vehicle sales uses are particularly prone to create traffic and parking problems. As well as concerns with respect to living conditions as in the Stockport case referred to above (Stockport M.B.C. 7/7/00 DCS No 039-020-214), highway safety is of decisive importance in making planning decisions, as confirmed by PPG13. In such cases, customers are often car borne, and as well as vehicle movement actually generated by the delivery and collection of cars, further activity is caused by test driving. Where new cars are to be sold delivery is likely to be by transporter bringing attendant difficulties arising from the manoeuvring of such vehicles. On top of this a further problem is that it is frequently necessary to indulge in the shunting of vehicles on site to “release” displayed cars, and this may involve reversing onto the public highway or temporary parking in surrounding streets. Pressure for display space within sites may also lead to car parking space reserved for customers and staff, or necessary circulation/servicing areas, being usurped, leading to on-street parking in surrounding streets. In some cases a site may simply be too small for its function as a car sales lot and in (Gillingham B.C. 28/6/91 DCS No.057-248-843) an inspector observed that a use which was the subject of enforcement action could only be run with the benefit of significant overspill onto the highway, both for parking and kerbside trading. He thought that congestion and obstruction occurred inevitably and unnecessarily adding to the risk of accidents. In another case, an Inspector considered that a small site which would be used primarily for internet car sales would still potentially lead to unacceptable traffic congestion and manoeuvring difficulties. This would have adversely affected the occupiers of neighbouring properties as well as being detrimental to the safety of persons using the access road and yard (L.B. Havering 08/12/06 DCS No 100-046-126)
Havering: site too small for use as a car sales lot
All of these difficulties, and also the possibility of distraction of road users occurring, combine to make traffic and parking difficulties potential reasons for the refusal of planning permission, but much may depend on the previous use of a site. Previous heavy traffic generators such as filling stations, particularly those built to modern standards with good visibility splays, separate in and out entrances and adequate on site space for manoeuvring may prove quite acceptable trade-ins for a car sales use from a traffic point of view.
Rural areas 13.533
Car sales uses in rural areas normally conflict with rural restraint policy and it is rarely likely for special circumstances to exist that outweigh such policies. Many cases relate to sites within nationally importance designations such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or green belts. However, even in such importantly designated areas, some of these cases show that it is essential that the degree of harm caused must be clearly demonstrated by Council’s when refusing such developments if their reasons for refusal or for taking enforcement action are to be sustained on appeal.
It is possible that a rural permission may be justified by loss of an even more intrusive use, as in the Swale case cited below or in (Epping Forest D.C. 1/10/90 DCS No. 051-034-544) where a permitted hire use was to be replaced in a green belt area.
The redevelopment of a restaurant in the metropolitan green belt near Egham, was denied following an inspector’s conclusion that the proposed car showrooms would harm the openness of the area (Runnymede BC 7/10/03 DCS No. 038-713-184).The existing restaurant was a somewhat eccentric building which sat within a substantial tarmaced parking area. It did not look particularly well maintained and the car park had a scruffy appearance. Although the replacement building would result in a visual improvement of the site, it would have a volume 31% greater. Thus it would reduce the openness of the site and erode the gap between nearby settlements.
Runnymede: car showrooms would harm the openness of the area
In another green belt case (Northavon D.C. 19/4/90 DCS No.030-397-965) a typical reason resulted in its rejection where use of agricultural land in a green belt area for a sales use and caravan had taken place. An inspector appreciated that no permanent structures had been erected but thought that the development was inappropriate to a green belt area, the quality of landscape in the area not being relevant to that judgement. He gave no weight to small business considerations or to an assertion that there was a need for the enterprise.
Use of agricultural buildings (and a former transport café) within the green belt in Yorkshire, for a mixture of car valeting and car auctions was allowed as the inspector considered the car valeting would not have affected the openness of the green belt. The car auction use within the former café would not have adversely affected the character or residential amenities of the area (Selby DC 11/5/98 DCS No. 035-561-842).
The demolition of a petrol filling station to enable the construction of a car showroom and workshop, was rejected by an inspector in the North Cheshire green belt. The Inspector concluded that the whole proposal would be inappropriate development. Although the new showroom would be of a similar height to the existing canopy over the petrol filling station, the proposed building would be much larger than the existing sales kiosk, it would also be enclosed and therefore would have a much bulkier appearance, thereby undermining the openness of the area (Macclesfield BC 034-172-621 DCS No. 034-172-621).
An Inspector upheld an enforcement notice requiring the cessation of car sales, vehicle washing and storage of metal containers (amongst other things) on a site next to a business park in York (York City C 23/3/07 DCS No 100-048-105). The use was not covered by an existing planning permission, was not ancillary to a riding school and cars sales are expressly prohibited by the use classes order, therefore planning permission was required. Furthermore, the use was unacceptable as it undermined the quality and openness of the green belt despite the employment consequences.
The use of a former petrol filling station for the display for sale of cars was allowed despite its location in a green corridor in Wales (Port Talbot 25/01/06 DCS No 100-040-869).
In one appeal case (North East Lincolnshire DC 02/05/06 DCS No 100-042-187) an Inspector considered that the erection of a car dealership on the edge of a settlement would urbanise the countryside and would be contrary to the principles of sustainable development.
NE Lincolnshire: car dealership would urbanise the countryside
Motor vehicle sales at garden centre on the Isle of Wight were refused (Isle of Wight C DCS No. 100-048-588). In the enforcement notice appeal, the Inspector ruled that the use had nothing in common with a rural area. Agreeing with a colleague who considered a previous appeal in 2006, the Inspector considered the impact of the whole frontage filled with parked cars displayed for sale was incongruous. It seriously detracted from the rural setting of the site and did not require such a location within which to operate successfully. In so finding he agreed that problems associated with security lights on the site which interfered with the operation of a local observatory could be controlled by condition had he been inclined to grant permission for the retention of the use.
A rural car showroom was allowed on a site outside of Truro in Cornwall (Carrick DC 31/3/98 DCS No. 055-298-027). The site included derelict land next to a petrol filling station on a main A road. The local authority argued for retention of the site for a roadside service facility but an inspector did not find a case for this on grounds of demonstrable need. The sustainable aspects of the use were also examined but it was concluded that there would be limited impact on car usage. This and the brownfield nature of the appeal site, the lack of suitable alternative sites and the location of other car dealerships in the area, represented a reasonable exception to the general policy requirement that commercial development should be located in urban areas.
Motor vehicle sales were proposed on a site in Essex. The use would include a change from of a B1/B2 unit formerly used as poultry houses and outside a village. The Car sales use would involve the introduction of three large glazing units which would be incongruous and out of keeping with the rural surroundings. Cars would be parked on an extended hard surfaced area and the loss of grassed area would increase the built up nature of the site. Whilst a limitation on hours was proposed, this was found likely to be unacceptable to customers but the inspector considered customers would be likely to travel to the showroom outside of these hours. Overall the scheme was harmful to the area. (Chelmsford BC 12/02/1999 DCS No. 100-035-010).
An extension to a car dealership in the Sussex countryside, was considered to be unacceptable because it involved a significant increase in the area of the site (Horsham DC 10/2/05 DCS No. 039-456-213). An inspector noted that the property occupied approximately 0.8ha and the scheme involved extending the area of the site by approximately 50% into an adjoining field. The extended site would provide an additional 110 car parking spaces and improve the access for transporters delivering vehicles to the dealership. The increase was unacceptable since it would extend built development into the countryside.
Sale of caravans 13.534
Although raising many of the issues already discussed, uses for the sale of caravans are particularly prone to objection as their visual impact is even more marked. Because of the size of caravans and the space that is required to display and manoeuvre them, large sites are required and rural or semi rural locations tend to be selected. An additional planning difficulty is the fact that some of the traffic coming and going from sites is likely to be towed, with the attendant highway safety problems which are identified in this manual in connection with touring caravan sites (24.333). Naturally enough planning permission for caravan sales uses in rural areas are unlikely to be forthcoming, except where there are exceptional circumstances, as in (Swale D.C. 3/5/91 DCS No.032-173-802) where an existing garden centre with derelict and “alien” features was to be replaced by a caravan sales enterprise with extensive landscaping. In a case near Hitchin, within the green belt, the extension of an existing caravan sales centre was considered to be inappropriate development. Positive factors in favour of the proposal including potential urban and rural regeneration as well as employment issues, did not add-up to being very special circumstances sufficient to outweigh the presumption against inappropriate development within the green belt. In linked enforcement notice and S78 appeals in Hampshire (East Hampshire DC DCS No.100-049-294), caravan sales were opposed in open countryside designated as AONB. The appellant stated that caravans had been sold since 1987 and on average between six and 12 caravans had been continuously sited on the land. The council on the other hand stated that the appellant had been unable to provide detailed business accounts. At best the information suggested that five caravans were purchased between 1993 and 1998 it stated indicating that the sales were not at a level which had triggered a material change from the agricultural use. The inspector determined that the material change of use had not taken place more than 10 years before the service of the enforcement notice and dismissed the “ground d” appeal (that on the date of issuing the notice, the use was immune from enforcement action). With respect to the planning merits, the Inspector allowed the deemed planning application, quashing the enforcement notice and granting planning permission as the use was considered to not cause harm to the natural beauty of the AONB, the living conditions of nearby occupiers or upon highway safety. The materially different scheme proposed by the refused planning application was dismissed however because of the impact it would have upon the natural beauty of the AONB.
Vehicle auctions 13.535
Vehicle auction activities raise many of the same issues as markets (13.7), but this particular use has a great deal more potential to affect residential amenity, especially if not conducted within a building. Car auctions are often held in the evening and noise generation is considerable by the very nature of the use. A typical appeal rejection is (Bolton M.B.C. 23/5/88 DCS No.051-946-250) where, although an industrial site had been selected, it lay close to dense residential streets. One of the few appeal cases where auction use has been allowed is (Hart D.C. 25/7/85 DCS No.050-929-855). Here land at Blackbushe airport in Hampshire was proposed for a vehicle auction centre run by British Car Auctions Ltd, together with a Sunday market. It was argued that this use because of its implications for road traffic and need for operational space could not be accommodated easily elsewhere. The proposal would help towards the rationalisation and refurbishment of the airfield. The S.O.S. concluded that this developer’s package was an attractive and beneficial one (Hart D.C. 25/7/85 DCS No.050-929-855). A Car auction building on the site of a former transport café within the green belt near Selby was allowed by an inspector (Selby DC 11/5/98 DCS No 035-561-842). He considered that the vehicles would be positioned on low ground against a screen of landscaping and that the removal of many buildings from the previous use produced a reduced impact upon the openness of the green belt. The West Lyndsey case referred to above at section 13.534 relating to car auctions from a scrapyard is also relevant to consider.
Supply of industrial land 13.536
Many development plans include policies which require the retention of employment sites that have been specifically allocated as B1, B2 or B8 or where commercial and industrial use is considered lawful. A number of cases illustrate this issue.
A proposal for a car showroom and workshop was dismissed on appeal at a site of a former British Aerospace site near Preston (Preston B.C. 12/6/00 DCS No 038-336-349). The site formed part of a much larger area which had partly been developed for housing with ancillary retailing. The retention of the appeal site for B1 employment use was considered to be overriding. The workshops were the dominant part of the scheme which fell within Class B2 and as such this would jeopardise the ability to develop the remainder of the site for B1 purposes thereby reducing the choice of employment sites.
In another case near Durham, a proposal for a car showroom, workshop and offices was allowed on appeal on an industrial estate (Durham City C 09/08/1999 DCS No 049-127-419). The Inspector considered the loss of employment land was not significant on a county-wide basis and the use would not have a detrimental impact on the image of the business park. This case demonstrates the importance of knowing the up to date statistics regarding land availability not just within the area of the Local Planning Authority but within the wider area.
Another case where the supply of industrial land was of decisive importance, involved the erection of a car showroom and workshop on a prestige employment site on Teeside (Darlington BC DCS No. 100-044-656). The appeal was allowed with an inspector agreeing that there was a substantial supply of industrial land. The appeal site formed part of a wider employment area and the council’s policies supported the development of prestige development within classes B1, B2 and B8. The inspector noted however that the council had already made an exception to the policy by allowing other uses and in his opinion, these permissions had been granted on the basis of a general lack of interest in prestige employment development. The council’s figures indicated that there was a 150 years supply of employment land based upon current take-up rates and the loss of 0.67ha would have a very limited impact on the range and quality of employment sites available he determined. In addition it would create approximately 60 full-time employment opportunities involving a range of skills and these factors justified granting permission.
In call-in case within the Thames Gateway, the SOS agreed with the Planning Inspector in allowing an application for parking, storage and preparation of damaged cars for auction on a 10.2ha brownfield site on Canvey Island (Castle Point DC 6/12/01 DCS No. 050-671-831). Amongst other issues, they considered that the use should be permitted even though it was safeguarded for oil development proposals, its loss as such would not be demonstrably harmful to the local economy.
In another Thames Gateway case, the erection of three motor vehicle showrooms in a strategically important landscape gap in Kent, was refused despite claims by the appellants that there was a serious shortage of employment sites which was hampering economic development (Medway 31/7/06 DCS No 100-043-622). The 1.5ha site was situated on the edge of a large urban area, was designated as part of a local landscape gap which was intended to prevent towns in the area from merging into one another. In the Inspector’s view, the underlying aims of the policy remained sound and the introduction of three car dealerships would involve significant built development in the gap, undermining its integrity. However he agreed that the impact on the setting of the town would be limited. In favour of the scheme were the significant economic benefits associated with new investment and employment created, he noted and he accepted that it was not clear that a suitable alternative site existed, he opined. In acknowledging that the matter was finely balanced, he decided that the importance of maintaining the gap should prevail since to set the protective policies aside would on a cumulative basis seriously compromise the purposes of the strategic gap.
A used car supermarket on 3.7 ha of a derelict former coal depot in Newcastle upon Tyne, was dismissed on appeal. Although accepting that it would not prejudice the future alignment of a new road nor undermine sustainability objectives, it was judged to be premature and would not assist in promoting a comprehensive approach to maintaining and improving wildlife interests on the site (North Tyneside MBC 31/5/01 DCS No 045-863-372).
Need for the business weighed against other issues 13.537
Very occasionally, the economic considerations involved in a car sales business can outweigh other issues. An enforcement appeal in West Sussex (Arun DC 7/10/99 DCS No. 046-263-474) involved land outside a village which was of high agricultural quality. The Inspector took into account that the business employed 25 people and stored around 100 cars next to a garage and car sales showroom. It was not reasonable to split the business onto two sites and the undoubted need for the business to survive in the village was a special circumstance and would not necessarily create a precedent. In a case near Prestatyn, an Inspector took account of the potential loss of a contract at a main Peugeot dealership if planning permission were not granted for the extension of a used car display area and repositioned Agricultural access (Denbighshire County C 9/9/05 DCS No. 100-038-792). He was satisfied that the only option that would enable the Peugeot contracts to be retained was an expansion of the existing site. He remarked that Planning Policy Wales stated that inappropriate development should not be granted planning permission except in very exceptional circumstances where other considerations clearly outweighed the harm which such development would have on the green wedge. In this case, he was of the opinion that safeguarding 34 jobs and the contribution made to the local economy by this long established business, together with the benefits to highway safety and character and appearance, amounted to very exceptional circumstances sufficient to outweigh the harm identified to the openness of the green barrier. In another case, a car dealership operated by BMW, was refused permission by the deputy prime minister after he decided to call in the application (North Kesteven DC 2/11/04 DCS No. 032-179-708). The site involved approximately 1ha of agricultural land adjacent and the company argued that it was necessary to erect new premises in order to remedy deficiencies with the existing dealership and to meet strict requirements laid down by BMW in terms of the location and design of new premises. The deputy prime minister agreed that the economic benefits associated with maintaining and expanding the existing business was an important consideration however the need to develop a greenfield site in the countryside had not been proven. It would undermine the character and appearance of the area and would not be accessible by a choice of means of transport. The search for alternative sites had not been conducted with the necessary degree of rigour and consequently notwithstanding the economic and employment benefits, refusal of permission was justified.
Vehicles sales as part of mixed use schemes 13.538
Occasionally, cars sales are proposed as part of mixed use schemes. Inspectors are generally careful however to ensure that each element of the mix of uses fulfils policy requirements. In a call-in case in Wallsend (North Tynside 25/07/2005 DCS No 100-038-245), the SOS partly disagreed with the Inspector’s recommendations that car sales along with a 2787m2 retail warehouse in an employment/business area were acceptable. The SOS considered that although it was proposed to restrict the nature of goods sold from the unit to bulky items only, this did not obviate the need to apply flexibility when assessing sequentially preferable alternatives. The car dealership was not a main town centre use and consequently disaggregation of this element was not required. It would create employment opportunities in accordance with the site’s allocation for employment development and decided and accordingly to grant permission for this element of the scheme only. The creation of employment opportunities in the retail warehouse did not outweigh a failure to demonstrate that a sequential approach had been followed.
Consideration of “fallback” developments 13.539
As with other types of development, unspent planning permissions are capable of being significant material considerations where there is a reasonable prospect of that development being implemented or continued with as a realistic alternative to a prospective vehicle sales use. Further advice on general “fallback” situations is given at section 4.148 but there are some appeals which demonstrate how Planning Inspectors have considered the issue in relation vehicle sales uses. A proposal involving the redevelopment of the site of a former filling station by the erection of a car showroom building in West Sussex was allowed by an inspector who had regard to a fallback position (Adur DC 3/11/00 DCS No. 037-017-316). Planning permission had been granted for a replacement petrol filling station in 24 hour operation and the car sales showroom was not likely to cause as much disturbance to nearby residents as a “round the clock” petrol filling station. The showroom would be more compatible with its surroundings than a petrol filling station which, of necessity, would also need to have a dominant canopy. In another case a redevelopment involving a site with an established use for a car workshop, petrol filling station and car sales was considered in a green belt area (Macclesfield BC 12/9/00 DCS No 027-563-847). The appellant sought to secure permission for a revised car showroom, workshop and used car sales business which the Inspector considered would harm the openness of a green belt area introducing a use with an essentially urban character out of keeping with the semi-rural nature of the area. The extant permission would be likely to be only part implemented equating to around half the size of the appeal building and even though it would be a realistic “fallback”, the proposed scheme would be more harmful. The fallback and other considerations were not very special circumstances to overcome the presumption against inappropriate development in the green belt.