DC NOTES Limit on number days a caravan may stay
A form of conditional control sometimes adopted is the specification that individual caravans are only allowed to stay on site for a specific number of days. Such a condition is controversial due to the problems inherent in enforcement; involving the monitoring of pitch letting records or the detailed comings and comings from camping sites in season being required. In the appeal case (Gwynedd CC 21/9/84 DCS No.047-448-118) a condition forbidding stay for longer than 14 days was endorsed as it conformed with structure plan policy, but it is unlikely that such a condition would be now be considered valid bearing in mind the terms of Circular 11/95. A case of note is (Doncaster MBC 2/6/98 DCS No. 043-935-157) where removal of a condition was requested which restricted use of a green belt touring caravan site to 28 days. A local authority argued that the condition was necessary to prevent permanent residential use, but an inspector noted that any such change would require further permission anyway. It was considered that the condition was unnecessary, but control was needed in order to ensure that the use remained restricted to holiday touring use. Such a condition was deemed enforceable and was substituted. The inspector also imposed a condition requiring records to be kept of the occupants of the site and the registration numbers of towing vehicles.
Another case of interest is (Conwy CBC 3/1/02 DCS No. 035-264-717) where a condition limiting the duration of stay of camping and touring caravans at a site near Abegele, was challenged. Here permission had first been granted in 1978 for the use of land for the siting of mixed touring units and a condition stipulated that on part of the site, no camping or touring units should remain for more than 21 days. An application to remove this condition led the council to extend the period to 28 days together with the imposition of another condition which prevented the erection of buildings or structures under class B of part 5 of schedule 2 of the General Permitted Development Order 1995. An inspector noted that the planning permission allowed occupation of the site by caravans between March to September inclusive and every pitch could be lawfully occupied during this period. The council’s approach to limit the stay of any one individual unit was unnecessary and unreasonable since there would be no perceptible additional impact on the countryside. Moreover the revised condition also prevented someone from returning to the site later on in the season if the 28 day allowance had been used up. He felt that the new condition also sought to bring back within planning control development required by the conditions of a site licence issued under the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960. Both conditions were judged to be unnecessary and unreasonable and in so concluding the inspector awarded a full set of costs to the appellant. He held that the council had predicated its case on the basis that the proposal was a new use of the site for touring caravans and it had failed to demonstrate how the limitations were required to restrict harm to the character of the area.
As in the Doncaster case noted above, conditions which limit the use of sites to touring caravans only without length of stay restriction may be imposed as a safeguard. More easily enforceable is a conditional requirement that “static” caravans should not be sited, the difference between such structures and touring caravans being readily apparent. When such conditions are imposed local authorities need to take care over definition or the condition may be queried as to its precision. Note should also be made of (Gwynedd CC 24/1/84 100-002-572) where a register of touring caravan comings and goings was required to ensure that pitches were retained for genuine tourists.
Restriction on numbers of units 24.343
Some form of restriction on the number of caravans to be sited on land is nearly always applied by local authorities, and the requirement for such a control is underlined in PPG21 where it is stated that “developers and site owners should be encourage to be specific about the overall numbers”. Also is PPG21 is advice that in view of recent trends in camping it may be necessary to consider numbers in terms of “touring units” rather than simply “caravans”. Most conditions only stipulate a maximum number, allowing the actual figure below that to be determined by the site licence. In practice the maximum number of pitches permitted often exactly corresponds to the number applied for!
Motor caravans 24.344
If a development is for motor caravans rather than conventional caravans, a condition may specify exactly what is meant by a motor caravan i.e. a self-propelled vehicle in full mechanical order designed or adapted for human habitation. If there is a fear that converted or ramshackle buses may be brought onto a site (the hippie/traveller syndrome), a perfectly respectable condition, imposed on several occasions by the inspectorate, can be used to prevent this and reads, “No railway vehicle, tramcar, omnibus body, aeroplane fuselage or similar other substandard, badly maintained or untidy structures whether on wheels or not shall be stationed on the site.” This condition is probably about as far as planning can reasonably go to control the appearance/design of the “caravans” on a touring site (see 24.242).
Impact and amenity mitigation 24.345
Conditions may attempt to minimise the effect of a development in the landscape by reducing the permanency of what is proposed. For instance, all roadways on a site could be specified to be made of chippings capable of being readily removed, and lighting may be required in the form of bollards instead of lighting columns. Control over other ancillary site buildings at sensitive sites can be ensured by specification that details of these be approved, a requirement that may be cemented by the removal of Part 5B permitted development rights. Planning control may even require that electricity service lines are approved and this condition was imposed in the appeal (South Wight BC 28/4/86 056-313-617).
Details of the siting of pitches themselves and the layout of internal roads can be reserved by condition in sensitive positions, although this is a matter normally left to the licensing system. A more generalised siting requirement may stipulate that only a particular part of a field should be used for camping e.g. “below the 550 foot contour” or the “westernmost half of field No OS 41 23”, but care is obviously needed to ensure that the specification is clear and capable of being understood (and of course justifiable on visual or other amenity grounds).
Landscaping and screening is a major area for conditional control. Internal landscaping, although strictly within the purview of site licensing, is frequently brought within the planning sphere by the imposition of conditions requiring that a scheme for the whole site be approved and implemented before occupation. Specific landscaping or screening requirements may be required such as the planting of a shrub and tree screen along a particular boundary, and it is standard form that a replacement clause be part of the condition. This ensures that any trees or shrubs which are removed, die, or are “severely damaged” are replaced within set period. A period of five years is normally felt to be suitable although two may be all that is needed for the establishment of a hedge rather than trees. The maintenance of an existing hedge may be a critical factor to the granting of permission and can be an integral part of a landscaping condition, but the preservation of existing trees is not deemed in Circular 11/95 para. 51 to be a matter for conditional control as the TPO procedure exists to secure this end. The erection of a fence of a specified height while screening landscaping matures is a conditional requirement that has been tested on appeal and found to be reasonable (East Lothian B.C. 10/4/84 DCS No.035-251-187).
If required a condition may specify that a landscape management plan, including long term objectives, management responsibilities and maintenance schedules be submitted to and agreed by the planning authority. A model for such a condition may be found in Circular 11/95 Appendix A at 31.
Wildlife concerns: A further condition which may be applicable where there are wildlife protection concerns may reserve certain areas for nature conservation and require a scheme for the protection care and management of such areas. In (Richmondshire DC 10/8/01 DCS No. 055-619-729) a condition required that no development take place until a licence had been issued by English Nature permitting the disturbance of badgers. Another case of interest concerned a situation where an authority had failed to approve a visitor management plan submitted in response to a condition. Here a caravan site at Aviemore was located next to an estate containing a SSSI where ospreys nested. The intention of the condition was mainly intended to control visitor access to this land. A reporter concluded that the condition passed all the conventional tests and was necessary to ensure the continuing wellbeing of the adjacent landscapes, species and habitats of high conservation interest. The visitor management plan was approved, being the fourth submitted (Highland Council 23/1/02 DCS No. 044-089-629).
Site service facilities conditions 24.346
The conditional control of bars, clubs and restaurants at camping sites can be a matter of some importance to the grant of a permission. It may be required that the impact of facilities be mitigated by the conventional means i.e. that hours of operation be restricted, that soundproofing be installed or that no external loudspeakers or dining/drinking take place. The issues in these instances are much as discussed previously in (16.1, 16.7 and 17.1). Conditions which seek to restrict the use of facilities to site residents only can give rise to enforceability difficulties, the practical implication being that local authority officers would be forced into the position of working in the evening checking the bona fides of customers. This problem was pointed out by the inspector in the appeal case (Ynys Mon BC 9/7/85) where the overlapping role of the Licensing Justices was referred to. The inspector would not admit that the restriction was impracticable to monitor, but he modified the condition so as to exclude “guests” on the grounds that a members only condition would be more easily enforceable! Despite the view of this particular inspector, it is more commonly held that residents only conditions are not enforceable and therefore not a valid requirement, as in the appeal case (Ryedale D.C. 18/3/83 DCS No.036-907-657).
An interesting appeal case displaying a variation on this theme came from Cornwall where a club building being used in the winter (when the site was conditionally closed) was held to have social value for the local community. The solution adopted was to limit the summer use to the appellant, his staff, and occupants of the caravans and tents, but to open the winter use to all comers, with a limitation on the number of dances that could be held in the interests of the amenity of nearby residents. The summer limitation was thought necessary as the numbers of people using the club would otherwise be too great (Kerrier BC 27/4/83 100-001-048).
Winter storage prevention 24.347
Conditions may limit the use to that applied for to prevent a general open storage use taking place, and Circular 11/95 states that care should be taken to ensure that caravans are removed for storage to a particular part of a site or away from the site altogether. The need to specifically spell out this requirement, if it desired that a site should be clear of caravans outside of the holiday season was demonstrated in Wychavon DC v SOS & Dunn 24/8/2000. Here an enforcement notice was contested where caravans had not been removed in the winter period. It was held that a condition which restricted the “use” of a site to the season between Lady Day and the end of October, did not bear on the physical presence of caravans only the use of the site.
Access conditions 24.348
The improvement of sightlines, access widths or alignments on land within or without the applicant’s control may be made the subject of a Grampian type suspensive condition i.e. that the development not be occupied until the improvements necessary have been completed.
Sec.106 obligations may also be used to secure off site access improvements where these are within the power of the applicant to provide. Such obligations may also be used in situations where routes to a proposed site may be various and only one of these may be acceptable. To ensure that a desired approach route is used an applicant may enter into an agreement to erect signs from the nearest principal road.
Enforcement action by local authorities against touring caravan uses is quite common but normally confined to small extensions or intensifications of existing uses, or breaches of conditions. Questions as to whether there has been a material change of use from a previous use have already been dealt with at (24.313) and (24.314).
In the case of successful appeals against enforcement notices an LDC will be necessary in order that a site licence may be achieved. It will then be for the terms of the LDC to specify what level and period of usage is lawful, to act as a datum for any future assessment of whether a beach of control has occurred.
Ten year rule 24.351
As touring caravans are a use of land rather than operational development the ten year immunity rule applies. In order to plead this ground successfully it is necessary to for the applicant or appellant to show on the balance of probability that the use enforced against has been operated continuously for ten years before the date of the service of the notice (in LDC cases 10 years before the application for the certificate). “Continuous use” does not mean that there has been actual use on every day and allowance is normally made for the fact that the use is seasonal, and also that on some days, while open for the reception of caravans, there happen to be none present on the site.
In order to establish continuous use for the purposes of the ten year it is of note that the clock does not begin to run until any permitted development rights have been exceeded.
Cases can often lead to quite difficult and complex assessment of evidence being necessary due to the “casual” nature of many uses.
The following cases demonstrate various situations where the ten year rule has been argued, either in enforcement or LDC appeals.
In an LDC case concerning use of land at an established site in the Lake District, an inspector noted that any use of the site in question in excess of permitted development rights would be unlawful. Conflicting oral and written evidence from witnesses as to the past operation of the site was taken was taken, and the inspector noted the lack of any hard evidence, such as booking records. It concluded that overall the evidence was vague and inconclusive and the certificate should not be granted (Lake District SPB 14/7/94).
An enforcement notice alleged that approximately 4.3ha of land was being used for a holiday caravan site. An inspector felt that substantial evidence presented by the appellant in support of his contention that it had existed for more than 10 years and was therefore immune. It was noted that although local residents disputed the evidence, statements had been submitted by many individuals who had used the site and this evidence was in addition to a substantial number of invoices and receipts (Isle of Anglesey Council DCS No. 031-991-843).
Enforcement action was taken against a touring caravan site in Cornwall. The site was a field next to an established caravan park. The ten year rule was pleased and it was established that sometime in the early ’80s the land became used for caravan and camping rallies mainly for non-exempted organisations for 3 weeks each summer. In addition the land had been used for casual basis at other times in the peak season, extending to about 30 units. An inspector judged that the two strands of the use should be considered together, and it was necessary to establish whether the use had been continuous of the requisite period. The council argued that in 1988 the land was used by an exempted Caravan Club organisations which was permitted development and that this was a break in the use. The inspector rejected this and considered that the manner of use of the site over the 10 years was similar and the notice was quashed (North Cornwall DC 3/6/96 DCS No. 037-972-809).
Breach of planning control was alleged in that agricultural land was being used for a touring caravans. The site adjoined an existing caravan park and it was argued had been used since 1982. The council argued that any use before 1986, ten years before the service of the notice, was either for permitted development rallies or was de minimis. An inspector established on the evidence of those having personal knowledge of the site that by 1986 the site was in use by significant numbers of caravans and tents both at weekends and weekdays during the summer. This was supported by aerial photographs although there was no actual documentary evidence of the use. The inspector noted that subsequent increases in unit numbers and improvements to the site such as hook-ups and the formation of a loop road did not change the character of the use. It was concluded that the use was immune from enforcement action and the notice was quashed (Ribble Valley DC 17/12/1997 DCS No. 038-614-307).
Enforcement action was taken against a seasonal touring caravan site in Suffolk. The four year rule was pleaded and letters and a witness statements confirmed that the land had been used as a small caravan site with an average number of units of about 10. An inspector was impressed by the overall weight of written and oral evidence in favour of the appellant’s case, although the observation was made that it was surprising that council officer’s had not noticed the breach of control. The inspector concluded that the use had operated without significant break since before 1964 and was immune from enforcement (Babergh DC 15/7/94 DCS No 056-811-661).
An LDC was sought for the all year round siting of touring caravans. Conditions applied to a 1979 planning permission had limited the use to March to October with a maximum stay of 21 days. It was argued that the use of the site had been in breach of the seasonal restriction for more than 10 years, but the council’s case was that the breach only occurred during the winter and that the lawful use of the sire recommenced every 1 March. Therefore each breach at the end of October was separate and could not cumulatively amount to ten years continuous breach. This conclusion was based on the court case Nicholson v SOS & Maldon DC 28/4/1998. However, the inspector felt that this case was distinguishable in that it referred to breach of an agricultural occupancy condition where the requirement of the condition was continuous throughout the year. In this case the requirement was not continuous and the council’s view was unfounded. An LDC was granted referring to the stationing of up to 40 touring caravans all the year round (West Dorset DC 28/8/03 DCS No. 030-706-573).
Breach of control was alleged as land was being used as a camping and caravan site. An LDC was also requested after failure of a local authority to determine it. The land was part of a smallholding and an inspector noted that at the time there were 15 touring type caravans on site. The clear conflict of evidence was noted between the recollections and photographs of local residents and the oral testimony and documentary evidence of the appellants. Greatest weight was placed on the evidence of receipt books and this lead the inspector to conclude that there had been camping and caravanning on the land for more than ten years. Even in years where there was little evidence of activity on site this did not mean that the uses were lost. The notice was quashed and an LDC granted for 20 caravans on tour and 6 tents from 1st April until 30 September (Isle of Anglesey Council 20/3/02 DCS No. 048-295-935).
Notice requirements 24.352
As discussed generally at (4.5362) enforcement notices should have the effect of taking away permitted development rights, but need not specifically make this saving as part of their requirements. Thus a notice requirement to remove all caravans and vehicles relating to the use does not preclude the continuation of a caravan use within permitted development limits. A notice may require the removal of physical operations which are “part and parcel” of the breach of planning control, even if these would otherwise be exempt under the four year rule (see 4.5363).
Closure of an access may be part of a notice requirements, but local authorities need to take care that this it is not a long established field access used when caravans were first brought onto the land.
Appeal record 24.36
The appeals record relating to touring caravan sites shows a below average success rate for appellants and is very poor indeed when it comes to new site proposals. In general the likelihood of winning an appeal increases significantly where there is some form of precedent for the use in terms of an existing site which is to be extended or developed. The Circular 14/85 presumption in favour of proposals does not count for much in the view of the inspectorate when matters of acknowledged importance such as countryside protection or highway safety are at issue.
Q & A 24.3/10
My national park authority takes the view that motorhomes are caravans for the purposes of planning control. However, land that is subject to an extant enforcement notice preventing its use as a touring caravan site has been extensively used by motorhomes for the past two years. The operator has displayed a notice at the site entrance saying “only motorhomes with tents for sleeping”. The site owner’s agents argue that if the motorhomes are used merely for transport, and their occupiers use the tents for human habitation, they cannot be regarded as caravans. We wish to prosecute the site owner for breach of the enforcement notice. What is your advice?
In Backer v Secretary of State for the Environment and Wealden District Council , it was established that a motorhome falls within the definition of a caravan in the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 and the Caravan Sites Act 1968 as amended. The difficulty in this case lies in correctly identifying the nature of the breach. If the motorhomes are not used for human habitation but are merely stationed on the land, it may be that what has occurred merely amounts to their unauthorised parking. Irrespective of any conclusion on that issue, a material change of use to a camping site will have taken place. While these activities may amount to a breach of planning control, it is debatable whether they contravene the existing notice because that relates to use of the land as a touring caravan site. To be certain of a successful outcome, I would consider serving a temporary stop notice and a new enforcement notice attacking the camping use. Since tents are clearly critical to the continuation of the existing activities, any doubt over the lawfulness of the use of the motorhomes will be immaterial.
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.