DC NOTES Conditions
Conditions applied to static holiday caravan parks are normally concerned to prevent letting other than for holiday purposes, to limit the number of units stationed and to require mitigating matters such as landscaping and satisfactory access.
Limitation of site to holiday use 24.241
Leisure demands have changed markedly in recent years with many people take several holidays a year, some of which may be short breaks, no longer just in the summer months. Much of this demand is for self-catering accommodation which may be constructed to a standard that would equally support permanent residence in some comfort. But this accommodation may also be located in areas in which the provision of permanent residential occupation would be contrary to national policies on development in the countryside or not in accordance with development plan policies, or both. The planning system can respond to these changes in the holiday market without compromising policies to safeguard the countryside by imposing holiday occupancy conditions.
Annex C of PPG21 Tourism 1992 states that the justification for such a condition would be that “less pressure is placed on local services than would be the case with permanent residential accommodation. For example, holidaymakers would not expect to send their children to school locally or undergo routine hospital treatment; nor would they expect shopping provision to equal that at their permanent home. They might also be prepared to countenance lesser standards of access, parking and private amenity space. A holiday occupancy condition would seem more appropriate in those circumstances than a seasonal occupancy condition. But authorities should continue to use seasonal occupancy conditions to prevent the permanent residential use of accommodation which by the character of its construction or design is unsuitable for continuous occupation especially in the winter months. Seasonal occupancy conditions may also be appropriate to protect the local environment, for example where the site is near a fragile habitat which requires peace and quiet to allow seasonal breeding or winter feeding to take place.”
Paragraph 4 continues “As with all conditions, an authority contemplating imposing a holiday occupancy condition should consider whether such a condition could be effectively enforced. It may be appropriate to ascertain from the developer how he proposes to restrict occupation to holiday use. The Department considers that authorities should normally be able to establish from the general lifestyles of the occupants of such accommodation (including their use of local services) whether it is being used exclusively by holidaymakers. If the occupants were using the accommodation as a base from which to go out to work, or if their children were being educated locally, there would be a strong case for arguing that accommodation authorised for holiday occupation was being used for permanent residential accommodation. But enforcement of such conditions need not and should not require intrusive checks on occupants of holiday properties.”
It goes without saying that if a local authority wishes to permit static holiday caravans it will seek to ensure that such structures remain in holiday use. As explained at (9.541) and (9.71), without such a restriction there is nothing to prevent a holiday caravan reverting to permanent residential use. However, the conditional means by which this policy objective is to be secured is a matter of some controversy. The current view, as presaged by PPG21 Tourism, is set out in Circular 11/95. Here it is that a condition should simply state that permitted accommodation should be used for holiday use only. Previously it was conventionally held that such a condition was difficult to enforce and restriction on the period during which a caravan or mobile home may be occupied by reference to a date range was normally applied. Circular 11/95 now advises that such conditions are only appropriate where a unit is unsuitable for occupation all the year round because of its light construction.
The PPG21 Tourism and Circular 11/95 advice was undoubtedly prompted by the judgment in Chichester D.C. v S.O.S. & Holdens Farm Caravan Park Ltd 18/3/92. Here the court held that an inspector was right to alter a “seasonal” restriction condition by substituting it for one which allowed all year round occupation but only for holiday purposes. The judge stated that it was not the court’s task to consider whether a condition was enforceable, but whether it was void and invalid. If enforcement is impossible then the holiday use only condition could well fail as absurd, but the situation was well short of impossibility. On a prosecution for failure to comply with an enforcement notice, the magistrates would have little difficulty on the facts as they emerge in deciding whether a chalet was being used for holiday accommodation or for occupation as a permanent residence.
For the above reasons a condition normally imposed today will be a version of “The units hereby approved shall be used only for holiday accommodation and not for permanent residential accommodation”.
Date range restriction: PPG21 Tourism 1992 advises that conditions specifying holiday use only are often to be preferred to conditions which allowed only seasonal occupancy. Paragraph 9 states that with better caravan standards and the trend towards tourism as a year-round activity, authorities should give sympathetic consideration to applications to extend the opening period allowed under existing permissions. Nevertheless, it seems likely that local authorities will continue to favour imposition of seasonal occupancy restrictions as they will perceive that seasonal occupancy conditions are readily enforceable by means of a simple spot inspection by a local authority enforcement officer during the specified period of non-occupation. On the other hand a condition specifying that a unit be only occupied for “holiday purposes”, or that lettings should not exceed a set number of weeks, is far more difficult to enforce due to its lack of precision. In Holden & Holden v S.O.S. & Lake District Special Planning Board 29/4/93 planning permission for a caravan park was restricted by a condition that the units should not be occupied between November 15 and March 1 each year. Reduction to January to March 1 was sought. The application was refused and a subsequent appeal dismissed. It was argued that an inspector had not taken account of the fact that the leisure building at the site could be used all winter. The High Court held that the question of existing rights was material and the inspector should have taken the question that the site would still be used in winter into account.
Appeal examples follow:-
An appeal concerned a condition imposed on a caravan park of 45 units requiring that none of the units should be occupied between 31 December to 1 March. The condition had been imposed by the council because it was concerned that the units might be occupied residentially on a year round basis and this was unacceptable in a countryside location and some distance from the nearest large village. In accepting that the appeal site would not be a sustainable location for permanent residential development, the inspector noted that PPG21 on tourism recognised that holiday patterns have changed and that holidays were taken at different times of the year. However he concluded that a condition simply stating that they should be occupied for holiday accommodation only would be difficult to enforce, particularly as the homes were to be sold individually. Accordingly he held that the condition should require a register of occupiers giving arrival and departure dates but this should not preclude occupation at certain times of the year (Forest of Dean 10/7/02 DCS No.047-641-224).
Forest of Dean: condition requiring a register of occupiers preferred
An appeal involving the variation of a condition imposed on a static holiday caravan site restricting the period of occupancy was varied by an inspector who decided that increased flexibility should be allowed. The existing condition sought to limit occupation to the summer together with other weekend holiday and recreational purposes. The appellants however sought to allow occupation between 1st March and 7th January, with the two months in January and February preventing unrestricted residential use. The council argued that allowing a longer period of unbroken occupation, would make it more difficult to ensure that the caravans were not in permanent residential use. Additionally it claimed that the caravans were unsuitable for occupation in the winter months. The inspector decided that the site was not suitable for permanent or semi-permanent residential occupation. However the caravans were modern and were capable of accommodating people during at least part of the winter period. Provided the caravans were not occupied for the majority of January and the whole of February, they would not acquire permanent residential use and this position could be checked by the council (Fareham 18/12/04 DCS No.040-820-637).
Permission was sought for the occupation of 30 caravans and mobile homes throughout the whole year as opposed to between March and October. The site had been used for holiday caravans since the 1960’s. An appeal allowed 30 caravans to be occupied all year round leaving a balance of 30 restricted to holiday accommodation. Removal of the condition would have some visual impact since it would lead to the creation of landscaped gardens and the parking of cars. This would be more noticeable in the winter months. Additional traffic movements in the winter months would also disturb the rural area (Horsham 28/1/00 DCS No.036-516-478).
Holiday letting limited to short periods: A form of condition, sometimes applied to holiday caravan sites, seeks to prevent occupation by the same person or family for more than a specified period, say a month or six weeks. Such a condition was not considered enforceable in (High Peak B.C. 27/7/88 DCS No.052-452-424) where permission was granted for “log-cabins”. Here an inspector stated that a condition suggested by the local authority, that letting be not more than six continuous weeks, would be impractical to monitor. However, this was not the view of an inspector in an appeal into the Lake District Special Planning Board refusal to relax a condition banning occupation of holiday caravans between 31 October and 1 March. The management company wanted occupation of one-third of the units, which were timber clad lodge type caravans, to be allowed all year round. The Board argued that it sought to restrict the winter occupation of caravans to allow a quiet period when local people could have some respite from the pressures of heavy recreational use of the Lake District, but the inspector thought that continued occupation of the units for extra weeks in the year would have little physical impact on the landscape. He understood the Board’s concern about the general level of activity if sites remained open in the winter, and he noted that there were 4,400 static holiday caravans in the National Park. He also noted the large number of serviced bed spaces in the Park not subject to restriction. In conclusion the inspector reiterated that the direct impact on winter quietude of allowing the appeal would be minimal. He felt that the permission should be granted subject to conditions. These required prior identification of the 20 units to which the relaxation was to be applied and that the caravans so identified “not be occupied by any person, member of the same family or group for a period in excess of 21 days during the period beginning with 16 November each year and ending with the 17 January in the following year.” (Lake District Special Planning Board 18/1/88). This decision is a remarkable one in that the inspector did not consider that a precedent would be set by the relaxation permitted. No doubt the high standard of the units concerned, which had full service connections and central heating, led him to believe that this was a special case. The decision has, of course, to be seen in the context of the controversy surrounding development control in the Lake District where the problem of reconciling the interests of residents with intense visitor and second home pressures is a constant preoccupation. The lack of impact that the inspector saw from the use of these few quality units for winter holiday bases provided that they did not become second homes led him to impose the 21 days restriction described, but such conditions remain suspect in terms of Circular 11/95 because of the enforceability criterion.
Another case of interest is (South Norfolk D.C. 18/5/98 DCS No.046-657-696) where an inspector stated that a suggested condition restricting occupation of static caravans to individuals, and requiring a register of booking/use to be kept, was unnecessarily complicated, unduly harsh and difficult to enforce. It is of note that the inspector in this case imposed a conventional seasonal occupation condition as the site was in an area where permanent residential use was inappropriate.
Not main residence restriction: Where local authority concern is to prevent permanent residential occupation, but where use as a second home may not be objectionable, a condition requiring that no unit be occupied as the sole main residence of the occupant may be applied. Such cases are rare, but in (Dumfries and Galloway R.C 3/4/90 DCS No.043-913-526) a reporter was prepared to substitute such a condition for a seasonal one.
Winter removal/storage of static vans: Such a condition, although it may be totally effective in preventing non-holiday occupation, does seem to be onerous and unreasonable, and thus fail Circular 11/95 tests. However such a condition has been upheld at court (although the condition was tested against Circular 1/85, the predecessor to Circular 11/95). In this case the local authority had applied conditions to the original permission for the site which stated that the site should not be used between November 30 and March 1 and that the caravans were to be removed each year. These were considered necessary in the interests of amenity. The condition relating to removal of the caravans was appealed against and upheld by an inspector (Forest Heath 23/8/94 DCS No.100-031-047). The court held that the condition was needed to protect the character of the rural area. The applicant also submitted that if the inspector was concerned that static caravans were more likely to attract permanent structures mobile caravans then the inspector could have removed permitted development rights to erect fences and sheds in order to reduce the impact of the caravans. It was however held that there was no obligation upon the inspector to cast about for a condition not suggested by either party Pratt Developments v SOS and Forest Heath DC 13/2/95.
Design and colour painting 24.242
A caravan is a “chattel” and therefore its design characteristics are not directly subject to planning requirements. Whilst colour painting conditions are obviously to be used with circumspection by local authorities, it seems likely that in sensitive situations a requirement that the colouring of static caravans be approved, would be supported on appeal. Appeal cases concerned with the removal of such conditions are rare, although (N. Yorkshire C.C 27/10/82 037-520-579) a condition requiring the application of colour painting to touring vans was dubbed ‘ludicrous’. In (Colwyn B.C 9/1/84 032-292-564) a condition was imposed by a Welsh Office inspector that caravans be painted in colours to be approved by the local authority planning before they were stationed on the land, and in (South Hams D.C 12/6/92 DCS No.040-521-176) colouring and “external treatment” of two linked agricultural caravans was reserved for local authority approval. In (Glyndwr D.C 10/11/87 DCS No.055-735-979) an inspector imposed a condition on a manager’s mobile home at a holiday park which required that approval of the external appearance of the mobile home and the landscaping of the site should be obtained from the local planning authority. The general use of such a condition could be criticised, however, since it entails a local authority making subjective judgements about the relative merits of one manufactured object as against another.
Other conditions 24.243
Other conditions applied to holiday caravan parks are similar to those applied to residential parks (see 24.14). These normally refer to numbers of units, landscaping and screening, access alterations and parking. It may also be necessary for a local authority to conditionally safeguard against site replanning which could absorb land within a park boundary shown or required to be left open for recreation use. A good example of an appeal which examined some of these conditions involved a scheme involved increasing the number of caravans from 75 to 83 together with the deletion of various conditions imposed on the original approval granted in 1965. These included restrictions on the erection of ancillary buildings, the occupation of two caravans by staff and landscaping. The inspector decided that the scheme would not harm the AONB nor area of heritage coast. The relocated caravans would not be conspicuous from any public viewpoint and the limited extension would not cause a material change in the character of the landscape. In allowing the appeal and granting costs, the inspector decided that the local planning authority had relied too heavily on the preclusion of extensions to caravan parks as set out in a local plan policy. This had to be balanced against the advice in paragraph 40 of PPG1, which required decision makers to assess whether it would lead to demonstrable harm to interests of acknowledged importance. Insufficient evidence had been presented by the council to substantiate its objection on landscape grounds and this justified a costs award against it (West Dorset 4/11/04 DCS No.034-712-649).
Conditions designed as a safeguard against ramshackle conversions, which would fall within the 1960 Act definition of a caravan, being stationed on caravan sites are occasionally applied to planning permissions. An example is the requirement in (Arfon B.C. 11/3/87 DCS No.036-081-874) that “only bona fide mobile caravans in good condition in all respects shall be allowed on the site (for the avoidance of doubt, this condition excludes the stationing of huts, bus, tram and coach bodies, aeroplane fuselages, railway carriages or other substandard or badly maintained or untidy structures, whether they are converted or not)”!
Limited period control of a holiday caravan development is not generally applied in practice. Although developments are temporary in one sense, the infrastructure of holiday static sites is extensive and it is unreasonable to expect investment to be made without the security of a permanent planning permission.
A condition applied in (High Peak B.C. 27/7/88 DCS No.052-452-424) is worth noting for its concern for ecological impact, a planning issue discussed at more length in (24.3). It was required that the construction of the proposed log cabin development should not take place in the bird breeding or fledging season and that no works to trees should take place in this period.
An extension of time for the submission of reserved matters associated with an outline permission for 14 holiday lodges and leisure facilities failed as material changes in planning policy were identified. Outline permission had been granted in 1998 and the council opposed a renewal because of changes in local and national planning policy, particularly in relation to the location of new development and its accessibility by non-car means of transport. An inspector agreed that advice in PPG13 published in 2001 sought to limit new developments which were likely to depend upon car use. The site was over two kilometres from the nearest town and was accessed along narrow country lanes, with no direct bus service. This harm was not outweighed by the need for the development in a rural area and consequently a renewal of the permission was not justified. In so concluding the inspector judged that the council had acted unreasonably in refusing permission based upon harm to the rural character and ecology of the area. These matters had not changed since the permission was granted in 1998 (Kettering 14/8/03 DCS No.052-085-565).
Enforcement activity with regard to static holiday sites is uncommon and largely confined to breach of condition matters. As already indicated, seasonal occupation conditions are the commonest subject and raise various planning practice issues. Legal problems are rare and matters relating to established use rights for static holiday caravans are not often encountered. This issue is dealt with in more detail in the next section (24.35).
Breach of seasonal occupancy conditions 24.251
Where a breach of a holiday occupancy condition is suspected, section 171C of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 enables the local planning authority to serve a planning contravention notice to require information about activities on land. One question to ask in such a notice might usefully be whether any tenancy agreement or licence includes a statement that the letting is for holiday purposes. The lack of such a statement might well indicate that the condition has been breached, because any landlord or licensor of genuine holiday accommodation is likely to have ensured that the tenancy is not an assured tenancy under the Housing Act 1988 and that a right of occupation of a dwellinghouse is excluded from the provisions of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. The following cases deal with breaches of seasonal occupancy conditions:-
A condition which limited the occupation of 20 caravans on a holiday park in the green belt was held to be relevant and precise. A council had issued an enforcement notice claiming that the condition which restricted occupation between March and December in any one year was being breached and that in particular caravans were being occupied by people for longer than 28 days at any one time. This, it was alleged, created permanent residential units rather than holiday lets. An appellant claimed that the condition was invalid because the restriction on occupation for no more than 28 days by any individual was capable of having different meanings. An inspector held that what constituted “occupation” was a matter of fact and degree. The fact that a person might vacate a caravan but leave their personal possessions within it would still constitute “occupation” for the purposes of the condition. The condition was precise and relevant and could be enforced through regular inspections. The inspector concluded that removal of the condition would allow unfettered residential use this would reduce the openness of the green belt through the introduction of residential paraphernalia. It would also lead to the loss of holiday accommodation contrary to the principles of sustainable development by encouraging car borne journeys (Maidstone 12/2/03 DCS No.053-711-920).
Planning permission had been granted for the seasonal use of 30 caravans but these were occupied throughout the whole of the year in breach of condition. The site lay within the open countryside and there were limited local facilities such that all year round occupation was inappropriate. Indeed the local authority had been generous in agreeing to the 11 month occupation period. Permission was refused (Wealden 20/6/00 DCS No.029-009-813).
An enforcement notice required the cessation of the use of 14 static caravans all year round which breached a condition requiring occupation only to between March and November. Under ground (d) it was concluded that for two caravans there had been a continuous breach for more than 10 years and were immune from action. Consideration was given to removing the prohibition on winter use in favour of 12 months occupancy provided it related to holiday use. A council agreed in principle but requested that normally a legal agreement would be required in order to ensure proper enforcement. The appeal was dismissed in respect of all but two of the caravans (East Lindsey 22/10/99 DCS No.038-283-851).
A LDC was sought for breach of conditions in respect of the permitted number of caravans on a site. An inspector noted that the permissions referred to touring pitches and had conditions requiring the removal of caravans during the winter months. There was thus a breach of condition each season and therefore it was not possible to show a continuous breach. This was not accepted by the appellants and thus the LDC appeal was held in abeyance and the appeals for the siting of various numbers of static and touring caravans proceeded. Two of the appeals which proposed 9 static pitches on part of site with PP for 12 tourers were unacceptable since they related to only part of the appeal site and did not therefore meet a policy requirement that improvements should be achieved on a comprehensive basis. The third appeal proposing 55 static and 28 touring caravans from March to January was acceptable provided the numbers were limited to 72 caravans and arranged in accordance with a plan (Isle of Anglesey 13/9/99 DCS No.036-693-698).
Site warden’s accommodation 24.2511
A condition may have been imposed to prohibit a site warden’s residential caravan from being occupied over the winter period. Such a condition had been breached in (Monmouth 6/11/91 DCS No.100-025-561) where enforcement action had been taken to prevent occupation during the prohibited period. An inspector found that the fact that the caravan was already allowed to stay throughout the year and could be occupied for nine months of the year was reasonable in terms of supervising and maintaining the site and represented generous support for tourism interest. At court it was held that the inspector had not got to the question which the inspector had to decide, namely whether the occupation of the caravan during the winter, which was going to remain on site during the winter anyway, was so objectionable that it ought to be refused. Even though the inspector knew the distinction between physical presence and use he had nevertheless simply not addressed the right question. The inspector had only concerned himself with the visual impact of the lawful caravan and not its residential occupation. Whilst there may well have been sound planning reasons for not allowing residential use of the caravan, these were not spelt out in the decision letter Leyshon v SOS for Wales and Monmouth BC 9/4/92. The redetermined appeal found that the occupation of the caravan for 12 months of each year would not be unacceptable given that the council raised no objection to the physical retention of the caravan on the site all year and that it is seen in relation to other permanent buildings on the site. In addition there was no evidence that uninterrupted occupation of the caravan over the last few years had resulted in any increase in activity or proliferation of domestic paraphernalia around the caravan. Maintenance and administrative activity would, in any event, continue throughout the winter (Monmouth 22/12/92 DCS No.100-040-790).
A further case involving a wardens breach of a seasonal occupancy condition involved a proposal for all the year round use warden’s use of a caravan/chalet at a sensitive coastal site by the Essex marshes was proposed. A condition restricted winter occupation, but it was considered that there were special circumstances in that the warden performed a useful winter role in providing a wildfowl rescue service. Justification for a site presence on security and flooding alert grounds was rejected. A personal permission was given including retention of a jetty for use by the warden (Tendring 27/4/00 DCS No.073-484-182).
Appeal record 24.26
About 30% of appeals are allowed for the kind of development. This figure is almost exactly the same as the average for all appeals. Most of these relate to intensification within existing sites and relaxation of seasonal conditions.
Holiday static caravans in a National Park location. The informal layout and valley floor location mitigate their visual impact but screening vegetation is difficult to establish in coastal areas. The windblown evergreen to the right of the picture are an attempt to hide a service block but an extension of this treatment to the whole site would create incongruity in itself.
Policy examples 24.28
Eryri Local Plan 24.28/1
The Eryri Local Plan provides the policy context for assessing development proposals within Snowdonia National Park. The Caravan and Camping section of the plan explains that many static caravan sites in the National Park have been in existence since before the Control of Caravans Act 1960 which first introduced a system of regulation. It adds that these sites rarely enhance the Park because of their location, poor standard of design, density, colour and landscaping. The Ardudwy coastline in particular has been badly spoilt by a number of prominent, high density and monotonous caravan sites. It continues by adding that during peak holiday periods caravan and chalet sites place an intense pressure on local services such as water, sewage and roads (greater than the equivalent numbers of houses or businesses), without creating significant compensatory benefits for local communities. They contribute to the pollution of the sea and prolong the existing embargo on new residential development which has severely restricted development in some coastal communities.
The National Park has in excess of 1,300 chalets and 5,500 static caravan pitches resulting in the population of certain areas increasing ten fold or more during the holiday season. However competition from cheap holidays abroad and a general demand for higher standards of accommodation, privacy and amenity has caused a decline in the traditional seaside static caravan holiday. Nevertheless caravan and chalet sites still fill an important niche in the holiday market and local economy and have undoubtedly provided countless post war families with the opportunity of enjoying an affordable holiday in Snowdonia. Coastal pollution and the obvious visual impact of caravans and chalets on the natural beauty of certain parts of Snowdonia are a clear indicator that saturation levels have been reached and exceeded in some parts of the Park. Consequently the following policy (TW5) was introduced to resist the development of new static caravan sites within the National Park “The NPA will not permit new static caravan or chalet sites or any proposals which involve an increase in the density of static units on existing sites or the relocation of existing sites. Exceptionally, proposals to increase the number of units on an existing site may be permitted but only where the requirements of Policy TW 5 are met. Relocations may also be permitted as exceptions but only where there would be substantial benefits to the Park and all evidence of the former use would be removed from the existing site by a full reclamation scheme which includes appropriate landscaping to ensure that the existing site would blend with the surrounding landscape.” The Eryri Local Plan was formally adopted by the NPA on the 10th November 1999.
A fair pitch for your holiday caravan – a guide to unfair terms in agreements for static holiday caravans by the Office of Fair Trading 2005.
Q & A 24.2/10
Planning permission was granted in 1987 for use of land for the stationing of caravans for holiday purposes. A condition restricted occupation so that they would not be occupied between the period 31st December and 1st March in any year. In 2001 the owner of the land applied for variation of the condition to allow holiday occupation for 12 months. Permission was granted subject to a new condition restricting occupation to a period of four weeks for any single letting and no return within four weeks by the same household. One of the caravans was in occupation at the time the permission was granted. I therefore believe that the permission was implemented when it was issued, but the developer has appealed against the new condition. Can the developer still rely on the former condition while the appeal is being determined, or has a breach of condition occurred?
A successful application to amend a condition leaves the old permission intact and un-amended. This was confirmed in the court case Powergen UK plc v Leicester City Council and Safeway Stores Ltd . Therefore, in theory the applicant in your case retains the option of conforming with the old condition or the new one. As to enforcement this cannot normally be sustained if a permission has not been implemented as there can be no breach of any condition until that event. The answer to your question would seem to be that the appellant can use the old permission for the time being and there would be no breach of planning control by so doing. The matter of whether the second permission has been implemented is harder to assess in this unusual situation.
Two holiday caravans have been sited for more than 30 years in a fenced off area of a paddock. A separate planning unit is easily identifiable, and were an LDC application to be made it would certainly be granted. Although such a certificate would be specific to the lawful siting of the two caravans would planning permission then be required for a third unit given that “pure” intensification of a use is now not normally regarded as a material change of use?
If an LDC is issued in the situation you cite it will aver that the use of the land for the stationing of two holiday caravans is lawful at the time of the application. If a third ‘van is later added without permission it will then be for your authority to consider whether there has been a material change of use of the land, and if so whether to take enforcement action.
In this particular case there will be no change in the planning unit and the use of the land remains unaltered. But it is still possible that a material change of use through intensification may occur as use of land as a caravan site does not fall within any Use Class. Any determination on this point is a matter of fact and degree but a recent enforcement case reported in Planning 22 November 2002 p26 is of interest. Here an inspector felt that an extra caravan at a site where there was an LDC for one unit did not constitute a material change of use. It was reasoned that the character of the site would not be substantially changed as it would remain largely vegetated. Although there would be an increase in activity it would not be different from that already taking place, and there would be no intensification materially altering the character of the land. The enforcement notice was quashed.
A seasonal occupancy condition imposed on a 100 chalet holiday site has been breached for more than 10 years in respect of one of the units. If immunity from enforcement can be established, does this mean that all the other units on site benefit and can be lawfully occupied all year round? Alternatively, would each individual chalet owner have to apply for a lawful development certificate and argue a case on its merits?
Among other issues, it is necessary to consider the relevant planning unit and whether this has changed over the prescribed period. In my view it is likely that each chalet would now be regarded as individual planning units, akin to dwellings on a conventional housing estate. Each would therefore need to make a case for an LDC.
The fact that one chalet might be able to establish immunity should not render the effect of the condition on the remaining chalets null and void, in my opinion. I draw support from a decision in Somerset in 1997 where an Inspector did not accept that a demonstrable breach of a condition in one particular meant that the condition in its entirety could no longer have any effect.
However, in a 1989 enforcement appeal concerning a breach of a seasonal occupancy condition relating to caravans on a site in North Wales, an Inspector held that as the site was in a single ownership, subject to a single site licence and a planning permission that applied to the site as a whole, each individual caravan plot could not be treated separately for the purposes of planning control. The Inspector therefore upheld the notice in respect of the whole caravan site, which he concluded was the relevant planning unit.
Regarding the query concerning whether one chalet on an estate used for more than ten years in breach of a seasonal occupancy condition effectively nullifies the condition for the whole estate an appeal reported in the Journal of Planning and Environmental Law bears out your view that it would not.
The case to which you refer (DCS No. 033-682-014) involved a condition on a planning permission for a building in London to be used as offices and residential accommodation, which required that 19 car parking spaces be retained exclusively for its occupiers and users. The Inspector rejected the appellant’s claims that as 14 spaces had been used continuously by non-occupiers and non-users of the building for more than 10 years, the remaining five spaces could also be used by such persons, even though those spaces had not been continuously used over the same period. He concluded that the individual car parking spaces were definable constituent parts of the car park and that while the condition ceased to apply to 14 of the spaces, it remained in force in respect of the remaining spaces, which had not acquired immunity from enforcement action under the 10-year rule. His approach was subsequently upheld by the courts in St Anselm Development Co. Ltd. v First Secretary of State 2003.
Would permission be required for new wooden chalet-style holiday homes within an existing chalet site, provided any planning condition limiting capacity is not exceeded? In addition, can existing chalets be replaced without permission?
Provided the new chalets remain within the statutory definition of a “caravan” and that their size, and degree of mobility or permanence are not such as to make them building operations, meaning that they would be classified as dwellinghouses, planning control is restricted to the use of land on which they are sited. Thus permission should not be required in the circumstances you describe, unless it would result in a breach of any existing condition.
Should the fee for an application for full planning permission for 10 static caravans on agricultural land be £220 for change of use or £2,200 on the basis of £220 for each residential unit? JR
The answer depends on whether the caravans involve operational development. If they fall within the statutory definition of a caravan given in the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960, as supplemented by sec.13 of the Caravan Sites Act 1968, the application should be assessed as a change of use of the land on which the caravans are to be sited. The definition of a caravan includes “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 other motor vehicle so designed or adapted”, subject to certain exceptions. Twin-units, comprising not more than two sections, constructed or designed to be assembled on site by means of bolts, clamps or other devices, and not exceeding 60 feet in length, 20 feet in width and 10 feet in height are also included.
Thus any structure falling outside these transportability and dimensional criteria, or having a sufficient degree of permanence, for example through adaptations to physically attach it to the ground or to connect it to main services will involve operational development. Such units are normally found at a static caravan site and will be classed as “dwellinghouses”. The application fee should be calculated accordingly.
My authority is currently dealing with an application for a Lawful Development Certificate for a use for the stationing of 30 static caravans, replacing 30 touring caravans. The applicant is claiming that the proposed statics would still fall under the definition of a caravan under the Caravan Sites Act 1968.
However, the proposed units would be attached to the ground and probably have plumbing and electricity connections. Furthermore, some lawful statics on another part of the site have items such as decking and steps attached to them. All this would suggest operational development rather than a change of use. What is your view on this matter? IA.
If the static caravans proposed have sufficient characteristics of permanency to be considered building operations, then there is no doubt that permission would be required for them. Cases where this, often difficult, exercise has been conducted are to be found in Development Control Practice 4.3531.
If the units are found to be sufficiently mobile not to be deemed building operations, it is then necessary to rationalize whether there has been a material change of use from a touring caravan site to a site for holiday static caravans. It is often argued, as does your applicant, that there will be no material difference in planning terms as both types of caravan fall within the compass of the Caravan Sites Act 1968 definition. However, some have averred quite cogently that the 1968 Act cannot pre-empt a planning judgment being made under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 that substantially bulkier units located permanently on site would, as a matter of fact and degree, materially change the character of the land. This was the finding of an inspector in a 2007 case from Kent (DCS Number 100-049-388). GH.