DC The legal definition of a caravan

Control of Caravan Sites    4.35


The purpose of this section is to explain the main strands of the law pertaining to the control of caravans for human habitation, and to explore the legal interpretations that arise.

This text is supplemented by the legal and enforcement sub-sections found in topic section (24) which explores in detail the practice considerations arising from the control of all residential caravan and chalet development, including gypsy and traveller sites. Agricultural workers' caravans are specifically addressed at (9.31). Legal issues relating to non-residential uses in caravans are dealt with in the relevant topic sections.

Legislation review    4.351


Caravan Sites and control of Development Act 1960    4.3511
The Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 (in this section referred to as the 1960 Act) introduced the current system of site licensing and is still the main statutory code of control over caravan sites. The grant of a licence under this Act cannot be refused if a planning permission is in existence, but the legislation confers the all-important right to attach conditions. In this respect a local authority should have regard to the Model Standards issued by the SOS, although use of these is not mandatory. The general scope of conditions is set out in sec.5 of Part 1 of the Act.
Under powers conferred by sec. 5(6) of the 1960 Act, the SOS published revised Model Standards, relating to permanent residential caravans, in April 2008. This was accompanied by an explanatory letter to local authorities. No circular was issued with the standards as they refer only to permanent caravans. The earlier 1989 standards still apply to temporary caravans and the DCLG stated that the terms of Circular 14/89 (W.O. 23/89) still apply to both. The 2008 Standards are relevant to development control issues in the following areas: separation distances, access requirements, bases, parking areas, open space, flood measures, fire safety, service provision and drainage. Interestingly, there is no standard figure for the number of caravans to the hectare in this version of the Model Standards. Previously, this had been suggested at 50 caravans to the hectare. This is replaced by reference to a minimum separation distance of 6 metres, which could be reduced to a minimum 5.25 metres where caravans have been constructed/clad with Class 1 fire retardant materials.


The Model standards issued in 1989 still apply to holiday sites; again their main relevance to planning control is in terms of density, spacing and parking. A density of 60 caravans to the hectare and a spacing of 5 metres (3.5m at corners) is suggested for holiday sites. Only one car may be parked between vans and it is recommended that suitably surfaced parking be provided elsewhere to meet the additional requirements of occupants and visitors. Standards for roads, footways, hard standings, fire fighting appliances, electrical installations, storage of LPG, water supply, drainage, sanitation and washing facilities, refuse disposal and site signage are also suggested.
A ministerial announcement in February 2011 revealed Government intention to improve and modernise the licensing regime applying to caravan and park home sites, for the purpose of enabling local authorities to more effectively monitor and enforce licences in order to ensure that sites are safe and properly managed.


The original definition of a "caravan" in the 1960 Act 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 motor vehicle so designed or adapted, but does not include - (a) any railway rolling-stock which is for the time being on rails forming part of a railway system, or (b) any tent" This definition was amended by the Caravan Sites Act 1968 to embrace double-unit mobile homes but size maxima were set (see 4.353).

Exemptions from site licensing, which mostly parallel the GPDO permitted development categories, are stated in Section 2 Schedule 1 of the 1960 Act to apply in the conditions summarised below:


1) if the use as a caravan site is incidental to the enjoyment as such of a dwellinghouse within the curtilage of which the site is situated;
2) if the use of land as a caravan site is by a person travelling with a caravan who brings the caravan onto the land for not more than 2 nights, provided no other caravan is stationed on the land and that the number of days in any year that this takes place does not exceed 28;
3) it the site is over 5 acres and for not more than 3 caravans, and not so used for more than 28 days in the past year;
4) if the site is occupied and supervised by an exempted organisation (such as the Caravan Club and the Camping Club of Great Britain);
5) if the site is used by not more than 5 caravans and approved by an exempted organisation;
6) if meetings occur of not more than 5 days duration organised by an exempted organisation;
7) if the use is for a caravan site for the accommodation of persons engaged in farming during a particular season;
8) if the use is for a caravan site for the accommodation of persons engaged in forestry during a particular season
9) if the caravan site is used for the accommodation of persons employed in connection with building or engineering operations;
10) if the site is used by bona fide travelling showmen for the purposes of his business or for winter quarters; (note: the use of land as winter quarters is not permitted development authorised by the GPDO); and
11) if the site is occupied by a local authority or as a local authority gypsy site.


Caravan Sites Act 1968    4.3512


This Act made special provision for gypsies by placing a duty on local authorities to provide sites, and also includes general safeguards against eviction. This duty was repealed by section 80 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. The 1968's main application to development control was, however, in an amendment to the 1960 Act definition of a caravan to extend size limits to double or twin units of quite substantial dimensions. Discussion of the definition for control under the Town and Country Planning Act, and the actual size limits set, are matters detailed at (4.353); for the sake of clarity the current size limits are also set out below.
These were updated through The Caravan Sites Act 1968 and Social Landlords (Permissible Additional Purposes) (England) Order 2006 (Definition of Caravan) (Amendment) (England) Order 2006. Their introduction arose from concerns relating to the energy efficiency of caravans. Some councils had been issuing grants to assist in the upgrading the thermal efficiency of some mobile homes. Where these were already at the maximum permitted size, under the 1968 Act, this work would have been likely to have increased the dimensions of the caravan beyond the limits, as it usually involved the cladding of units.


As a result, the Order introduced the following maximum dimensions to allow for these works:
- Length (exclusive of any drawbar): 20 metres (65.616 feet)
- Width: 6.8 metres (23.309 feet)
- Internal height: 3.05 metres (10.006 feet).


Town and Country Planning Act 1990    4.3513


There is no specific mention of the control of caravan sites in this Act, and the entire basis for planning permission being required rests on sec.55(1) where it is stated that "the making of any material change in the use of any building or other land" is development. A conventional caravan structure is not operational development because of its mobility and for the purposes of sec 55 planning law has the status of a chattel and it is thus a use of the land on which it is stationed.


Sec. 18.3(3)(b) of the Act provides that stop notices may not be served on residential caravan sites.


Town and Country (General Permitted Development) Order 1995    4.3514


The Town and Country (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 (GPDO) and Schedule 1 to the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960, together give those situations where caravan site development is permitted without needing planning permission. There are no permitted development rights specifically for Gypsies and Travellers.


Part 5 of Schedule 2 of the GPDO refers to two classes of permitted development i.e. that which is strictly development but for which no express planning permission is required. Class A is the use of land, other than a building, as a caravan site in the circumstances referred to in paragraph A.2, and Class B is development required by the conditions of a site licence being in force under the 1960 Act. Paragraph A.2. indicates that the permitted development classes are the same as the site licensing exemptions specified in paragraphs 2-10 of Schedule 1 of the 1960 Act (see 4.3511 above), but not including use for winter quarters. Paragraph A.1 is a general condition that when a site ceases to be permitted development all caravans should be removed from the site as soon as reasonably possible.


The GPDO and the Caravan Act 1960 together allow the following permitted development:
use of land by a person travelling with a caravan for one or two nights, up to an annual limit of 28 days on that or any adjoining land;
use by up to three caravans for up to 28 days a year on holdings of 5 acres or more;
use of any land for up to five touring caravans at once by members of the Caravan Club, the Camping and Caravanning Club and other recognised recreational organisations, provided the site has an exemption certificate from Defra;
stationing a caravan on agricultural land to accommodate a person or persons employed in farming operations 'during a particular season';
use of land as a caravan site for the accommodation of workers employed in carrying out building or engineering operations; and
use of land as a caravan site by a travelling showman who is a member of an organisation of travelling showmen which holds a certificate and who is travelling for the purpose of his business.


The GPDO defines a "caravan" as having the same meaning as for the purposes of Part 1 of the 1960 Act, and a "caravan site" as meaning land on which a caravan is stationed for the purpose of human habitation and land used in conjunction with land on which a caravan is so stationed. Further discussion of Part 5 of the GPDO can be found at 4.3424.


The siting of a caravan within the curtilage of a dwellinghouse does not require express consent provided the use is incidental to the enjoyment of the dwelling and has not resulted in a material change of use. For example, a householder may use a caravan as extra accommodation without planning permission, provided the occupants continue to use the facilities of the house. If, on the other hand, a caravan is there for some purpose not incidental to the use of the main house, for example, being inhabited independently of the main house, planning permission for change of use of the land would usually be required. Additionally, if a caravan was being used in connection with some commercial purpose, the local planning authority could decide that an unauthorised change of use of land was occurring, for which planning permission should be sought. Similarly, if so many caravans were stationed in the garden of a house that they ceased to be incidental to the principal use of that land, the local planning authority could require a planning application, or take enforcement action against the unauthorised change of land-use. More analysis can be found in (24.6).


The dual control system    4.352


The legal basis for local authority control over caravan and camping sites is complicated by the fact that two different forms of control operate in tandem: that based on the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and that derived from the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960. In order to fully understand the basis for this dual control it is necessary to look briefly at how the legislation came into being.
In the early days of development control, before the boom in camping and caravanning in the late 1950s, it was not thought necessary to apply many conditions restricting caravan site development or unit numbers, and little control was possible over changes within established sites, many of which dated from the pre-war period.


The court case Guildford R.D.C. v Penny 1959 underlined the fact that a change in the number of units at an existing site, from 8 to 27, did not constitute a material change of use.
Some regulation was possible under the Public Health Act 1936, but by and large operators of caravan parks, be they for residential or holiday purposes, enjoyed relative freedom from public control. In 1959 a report by Sir Ayrton Wilson 'Caravans as Homes' established that a large number of sites were being operated to poor standards, and legislative reform followed.


Planning regulations were thought to be inadequate to deal with the problem and a parallel system of site licensing was proposed. This new control was introduced by the 1960 Act and applied to all sites, subject to certain exceptions, right down to the level of single unit plots. Caravans that were stationed for human habitation thenceforth needed a site licence from a local authority, and a planning permission was a necessary prerequisite of a licence, together ensuring the maintenance of standards and the future approval of any significant changes.
Planning and site licensing controls obviously overlap to some extent, and this can cause some confusion. The conventional differentiation applied is that planning permissions should be issued mainly on the basis of the principle of the use and its external effects, and that site licences should be concerned with internal arrangements "which affect only the caravanners", as withdrawn D.C.P.N. 8 put it.


Planning conditions should try not to compromise the operation of Model Standards (see Circular 14/89) for the internal arrangements of caravan sites, but conditions imposed often do impose requirements relating to site layout and internal amenity, especially in sensitive site circumstances. In practice, liaison procedures between planning and environmental health departments (the latter normally have licensing responsibility), as required in the 1960 Act, usually ensure a common approach at an early stage. It is important to note that matters of site layout and amenity provision required by a licence are permitted development in the absence of any conditions to the contrary on a planning permission.


It has been a criticism of site licensing control that conditions which seek to improve the visual environment within sites are not always enforced by local authorities as vigorously as conditions attached to planning permissions. It has also been alleged that in some areas Model Standards have been applied with little imagination, in particular the requirements for spacing between units, open space on site and 50 or 60 vans per hectare.
It is sometimes suggested that, when dealing with unauthorised caravans, use of site licensing controls, rather than planning legislation, offers the best legal remedy. However, it is the practical experience of many local authorities that prosecutions under the 1960 Act for not having a site licence often raise problems as magistrates tend not to find the case proven, or only impose limited penalties, if a planning application or appeal is pending.
Court cases of interest for their exploration of the interface between planning and site licensing follow.


In a case concerning a caravan site licence condition requiring the removal of caravans in the winter months, the Court of Appeal held that planning considerations should not be applied to caravan site conditions. The removal of the caravans in the winter could only be secured by the relevant planning authority Babbage v North Norfolk D.C. 26/7/89.


Local justices had rejected an appeal against a site licence condition which prescribed maximum dimensions for caravans, and also required that 28 of the permitted 34 caravans should be towable. The High Court noted that there would inevitably be a considerable overlap between planning conditions and site licence conditions. However, one had to be careful about the extent to which site conditions could be used to cut down on existing use rights under planning law. It was found that the justices had failed to apply their minds to the question of whether, assuming that the purposes addressed by the conditions were proper purposes, there was a way which was fan less burdensome for the appellant. The matter was remitted Goodwin v Stratford-On-Avon D.C. 1996.


A site licence had been given in 1961 for a caravan site, but not for associated land most of which was a recreation area. In 1992 a site licence was applied for part of this recreation area. A local authority took the view that it had no power to grant the licence as there was no planning permission relative. Judicial review was sought on the basis that the land was an "existing site" within secs 1(4) and 13 of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development act 1990. The Court of Appeal held that the original decision in 1961 had been correctly made R. v Epping Forest D.C. ex parte Berkeley Leisure Group Ltd 14/2/95.


The lack of a site licence at the time of unauthorised works being carried out on a residential caravan park in an urban area meant that an appellant was not able to rely on the permitted development rights within Class 17 of the GPDO (Argyll and Bute 28/12/07 100-052-182).
In (East Northamptonshire 18/11/04 031-813-869) an appeal was lodged against a council's decision to refuse to issue a certificate of lawfulness for the use of land as an unrestricted caravan site. The case revolved around sec. 17 of the 1960 Act. Its transitional arrangements allowed for an application for a site licence to be treated concurrently as an application for planning permission. Applications under this section should have been made within two months of the Act coming into force unless special circumstances were claimed or the council used its discretionary powers. Despite protestations to the contrary, the inspector found that the council had indeed used its discretionary powers in the 1975 application and allowed the appeal.
The removal of permitted development rights for the use of land for caravans on land within the AONB was discussed in (Swansea 19/08/05 100-038-577). Whilst the inspector concluded that the removal of the rights from the area was laudable in principle, in respect of a single field adjacent to an existing site he concluded that the use for exempt organisations under the terms of Class A of Part 5 of the GPDO would be acceptable. The appeal was allowed in part.


The siting of two additional residential caravans in Cumbria failed to secure permission because they would be too close to an existing unit. An inspector noted that the council, in issuing a site licence for the caravan park, required that all units were at least six metres from any other caravan. However, the larger of the two units proposed would not meet this minimum standard and as a result the occupiers would have an unacceptable outlook and a reduced level of privacy. Therefore, although a decision to issue a site licence was a matter for the council, this did not prevent him from ruling that in land use terms the scheme was inappropriate because of the unsatisfactory relationship between the proposed and existing caravans (Allerdale 26/2/10 DCS No.100-066-548).


A caravan park had received planning permission in 1972 with no limit imposed on the number of caravans. A site licence had been issued under the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 which limited the total number of caravans to 51, their size, the space between them and the amount of recreational space provided on site. In allowing an appeal involving the addition of one caravan an inspector decided that no material change of use was involved. The appellant had argued that the council failed to appreciate the relationship between planning permission and the 1960 act, with the planning permission establishing the principle of the development but with the internal arrangements, including the number of caravans, being a matter for the site licence, and therefore adding a further caravan did not involve a material change in the use of the site. In contrast, the council stated that the addition of one caravan led to a deficiency in the amount of amenity space and to a layout which was cramped and overcrowded. The inspector referred to the judgment in Babbage v North Norfolk District Council [1989] noted earlier in this section, where it was held that where a purely planning purpose was served, it must be secured by planning condition and all other matters should be secured through the site licence. In a sense the planning permission in the case before him was tantamount to outline consent with the site licence analogous to reserved matters approval for the detailed layout and siting. The permission did not impose a limit on the total number of caravans and the council's concern about internal amenity space was not relevant in assessing whether a material change of use would occur if an additional caravan were located within the park. In the opinion of the inspector, the small level of intensification would not trigger such a change (Wokingham 26/1/10 DCS No.100-066-360).

Interface with Lawful Development Certificates    4.3521


In the past, under the old established use rights regime, some difficulty occurred because site licences may not be granted unless there is also a relevant planning permission. Thus a caravan site may have had established use rights, even enshrined in a formal Established Use Certificate, but because this did not constitute a lawful planning permission, the site could not be legally operated. However this anomaly has now been rectified with the introduction of the new system whereby those with existing use rights may apply for a Certificate of Lawful Use or Development. At sec. 191(7) of the 1990 Act there is specific reference to the fact that an LDC shall have effect as if it was a planning permission for the purposes of the Caravan sites and Control of Development Act 1960.


As the question for a LDC application for a caravan is one relating to the change of use of the land, the relevant time period for such an application would be ten years.
A related case is (Gwynedd 05/06/08 100-055-747) where, previously, a LDC had been issued for the siting of a caravan. Subsequently a chalet was proposed in lieu of the caravan on the basis that this would not have a greater impact on the area's amenities. Noting that the existing modest caravan could be replaced with any caravan complying with the statutory definition and the local circumstances, the inspector allowed the appeal.

Gwynedd: LDC granted previously for the siting of a caravan

Local planning authorities should be aware of an ombudsman case which found maladministration in the issue of an LDC for a 47 pitch touring caravan site. The Ombudsman found that in granting the certificate the council failed to have adequate regard to the appropriate 'conditions' to impose. Its enforcement officer was aware that the land had never been used over the ten year period for more than an absolute maximum of ten caravans and tents at one time. This should have caused further questions to be asked of the applicant, and amounted to maladministration. In addition another officer had misdirected himself in taking account of the capacity of the site rather than the information available of actual usage derived from booking sheets. The Ombudsman noted that a permission had been given for the intensification of an existing use and this was not what a certificate of lawful use was designed for (Complaint 08 001 393 and 08 001 402 East Devon 10/3/09).


Tents    4.3522
Proposals to introduce a system of tent site licensing similar to that pertaining to caravans have been mooted for many years, and in 1987 the Government published a consultation document setting out proposals to introduce new regulations. However, it was later announced that no new legislation was likely in the forseeable future, and so the basis of public control of tented camping sites remains the Public Health Act 1936 and the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, as set out at (24.41).

The legal definition of a caravan    4.353


A statutory definition of a caravan is to be found in the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 as supplemented by sec.13 of the Caravan Sites Act 1968. The 1960 Act at sec. 29 states that a "caravan "means 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, but does not include a) any railway rolling stock which is for the time being on nails forming part of a railway system, on b) any tent.


Section 13 of the Caravan Sites Act 1968 is not as clearly worded as it might have been. Under the heading "Twin-unit caravans" the section states that twin-units are composed of not more than two sections, constructed or designed to be assembled on site by means of bolts, clamps or other devices, and should not exceed 60 feet in length, 20 feet in width and 10 feet in height overall. They shall not be treated as not being a caravan as defined in the 1960 Act by reason only that they cannot lawfully be so moved on a highway when assembled. As stated, (4.3512) these dimensions have since been modified.


The House of Lords decision in Wyre Forest D.C. v S.O.S. & Allens Caravans Ltd 22/2/90 is the standard authority for using the statutory definitions given above, and not the ordinary and everyday meaning of the word, to determine whether in planning terms a lawful "caravan" has changed into something that is not a caravan. Subsequent to this judgement planning practice has tended to accept that if a caravan which is lawfully sited is substituted by another structure which transgresses the transportability and/or dimensional criteria given, then planning permission is required.

Many cases may be cited where this line has been tacitly accepted. However, the House of Lords judgement has never sat comfortably with the normal sec.55 tests for development which require operations or a material change of use to have occurred, and some confusion exists as to the correct approach. The view that the statutory definition of a caravan was not relevant was illustrated in a case where an inspector rationalised that as there had been no material change of use involved when a smaller caravan was replaced by a larger one. He felt that no matter whether the statutory definition of a caravan had been transgressed on not, there had been no development (South Bedfordshire 18/8/99 DCS No.036-273-362).


Until the above matter is resolved, the following subsections refer to situations where the approach as to whether development had occurred when caravan structures have been changed has followed the Wyre Forest approach, or alternatively where the sec.55 tests were relied on.
Jones v Green on behalf of the Friends of Fordwich and District 16/12/05 is a gypsy case in which the definition of a caravan was discussed. It exemplifies the difficulties in determining the status of structures as caravans. In this case, two caravans had been adjoined by a wooden structure and another had a wooden addition. The judgement was that each structure should be considered as a whole and, if so considered, they would be incapable of being moved as a single unit. This was especially so in the case of the former. Given that they could only be moved if dismantled, they did not fall within the statutory definition of a caravan.


In Fareham BC v SOS and Barton 05/06/01, the council sought to overturn an inspector's decision to allow the erection of a house and garage in lieu of a mobile home. One of the grounds of appeal was that the relevant development plan policy did not include provision for the use of land for the stationing of a mobile home to equate to a permanent dwelling house. The court disagreed, being perfectly satisfied that the caravan constituted an existing permanent dwelling house and that the conclusion by the inspector was not irrational.


The criminal appeal court decided in R v Schonewille 11/3/11 that a caravan in West Lancashire was still a caravan even though it had been taken inside a building, had its wheels removed and been cemented to the floor. The council had issued an enforcement notice targeted at two caravans on the land. The appellant removed one but then knocked down the wall of a building, took the other inside and walled it up, arguing that he had complied with the notice because it was no longer a caravan. The judges decided, however, that the caravan did not cease to be a caravan simply because it had been placed within a building.


The 1960 Act Sec.29(1) definition of caravan includes "any motor vehicle so designed or adapted" for human habitation. The meaning of "adapted for human habitation" as it applies to motor vehicles was explored extensively in Becker v SoS & Wealden DC 1983. The case concerned a challenge to an appeal decision in which enforcement action was upheld requiring cessation of use and removal of caravans, including a converted Commer van. The appeal raised the question of whether the Commer van was a caravan. The judge concluded that motor vehicles were not caravans unless they were either designed for human habitation or had been physically altered in some way for that purpose. Motor vehicles such as the Commer van which were not designed for living in, but which merely happen to be capable of it without physical change but simply by being equipped with beds and cooking facilities, do not fall within the definition of the 1960 Act. On this basis it is clear that a motorhome would come within the legal definition of a caravan.


Whether operational development has occurred?    4.3531


The tests for whether a structure placed on land has a sufficient degree of permanency to be judged "operational" development in terms of sec.55 of the 1990 Act are documented at (4.3112). As noted above, in terms of caravans, these tests have become overlain with importations from caravan related legislation.


Any structure which falls outside the portability and dimensional criteria of the definition of a caravan in the Caravan Sites Acts of 1960 and 1968 and Amendment Order 2006, or has a sufficient degree of permanence through physical attachment to the ground or to main services, will involve operational development. In respect of applications for static timber clad caravans or 'lodges' the decision whether the proposal involves the erection of buildings will have a significant effect on the application fee payable.


When it can be shown that an existing caravan having the conventional characteristics of mobility has been adapted by the addition of foundations, brick skirts on other permanent additions which would clearly indicate that it is intended to be a permanent fixture, decision makers have often relied on these features to infer that fresh development has occurred. Of course, it may be critically important in terms of enforcement cases to determine whether operational development has occurred (where the four year rule is appropriate) or whether the siting of a caravan is not a building operation, rather a change of use of land (where the ten year rule is applicable).


The following cases demonstrate varied situations which have been explored.


An enforcement notice directed at the siting of a mobile home at a dwelling in Devon was quashed because the unit was permitted development. The council argued that although it was sited within residential curtilage, planning permission would still be required because what had occurred was operational development. The caravan had been brought to the site in numerous pieces. Accordingly, the council took the view that it would not meet the definition of a caravan in the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 as modified by the Caravan Sites Act 1968. The manufacturer gave evidence that the structure was fabricated in his factory but, after ascertaining that access to the site would be difficult in two sections, it was taken apart and transported to the site in smaller segments. It was then re-assembled into two sections which were bolted together, and which were capable of being lifted onto a trailer. The inspector considered that the provision in section 13 of the 1968 Act for the final two sections to be assembled on site had been met. He decided that the unit was a standard twin-unit caravan. The unit erected amounted to permitted development and met statutory provisions for caravans, he ruled. The appeal succeeded and the notice was quashed (West Devon 1/9/08 DCS No.100-057-608).

West Devon: unit was a standard twin-unit caravan

Enforcement action was taken against a "caravan" which had had its wheels removed. The inspector at appeal had decided that the structure was now more akin to a portable cabin and that therefore the notice should be quashed as it ought to have alleged operational development. The local authority appealed and it was judged that the inspector could have varied the notice. The case was remitted back to the S.O.S. Wealden D.C. v S.O.S. 21/10/82.
Enforcement action had been taken against chalet type structures known as Permohomes. The site had previously been a caravan site with established use rights for 6 residential units. The two notices were served in almost identical terms except one also referred to the Permohomes not being caravans as defined in the 1960 and 1968 Acts. At appeal the notices had been upheld but on appeal to the High Court Short v S.O.S. and North Dorset D.C. 3/9/90, it was ordered that the matter be remitted for redetermination. The court stated that the first inspector had erred in respect of one of the notices in comparing the Permohomes with caravans as defined by the ordinary and natural meaning of the word, whereas he should have used the statutory meaning. A second inspector then reported. The S.O.S. concluded that the Permohomes were prefabricated dwellings and not caravans because of the permanent nature of the development and the construction of the foundations. However, he felt that the impact of the new dwellings was not sufficiently different from the established caravan use to warrant refusal of planning permission for retention (North Dorset 10/4/91 DCS No.042-224-444).


An enforcement notice alleged a material change of use of land involving the siting of a twin unit mobile home. A brick and blockwork extension had been applied but it was noted that the unit complied with the Caravan Sites Act dimensions and the extension was only an ancillary operation development which could be demolished to facilitate transportability. As the four year rule did not apply the notice was upheld. The case was taken to the High Court on the basis that the inspector's views on fixation had not been properly addressed, and this view was upheld. The decision also addressed the question of transportabilty as noted at (4.3534) Pugsley v S.O.S. & North Devon D.C. 9/5/96.


In an enforcement case an inspector had concluded that caravans were not buildings. A court held that the correct tests as laid down in Barvis and Elitestone (see 4.3112) had been followed. It was argued that caravans were buildings as the 1960 Act referred to structures and because of the permanency of their occupation. It was held that it was contrary to the purpose of the Act and commonness to treat mobile caravans as buildings. In the present case the caravans lacked the degree of permanence and attached to constitute buildings Measor v S.O.S. & Tunbridge Wells B.C. 6/8/98.


Two enforcement notices alleged a change of use involving two mobile homes and unauthorised extensions. The mobile homes were brought onto the site as second hand caravans and subsequently various works including plumbing, erection of block walls, mains services and extensions were undertaken. Under ground (d) it was claimed that in September 1989 the caravans were occupied residentially such that under the 10 year rule, they were not immune from action. However it was also claimed that one of the caravans became a dwellinghouse due to the works carried out before 1994 and thus the 4 year period was met. An inspector considered the statutory definition of a caravan and the judgement in Measor, where the court upheld an inspector's decision that certain mobile homes and touring caravans had not become buildings, but remained caravans for planning control purposes, despite being "structures" and the subject of long-term residential occupation. Various other cases of decisions in respect of whether occupation of a mobile home on caravan constituted a use or operation and reference to Development Control Practice was made. The economic considerations associated with moving the caravans were irrelevant in assessing its mobility. It was concluded that at all times the caravan remained a caravan. With regard to the extensions, much debate centred upon the extent of the curtilage and whether the second caravan was a dwellinghouse which preserved GPDO rights. It was concluded that the extensions were unlawful since they were unauthorised and facilitated an unlawful use. They were not immune. If the caravan were removed they could not remain as independent structures. A similar conclusion was reached in respect of a garage extension exceeded the GPDO tolerances even if such tolerances applied to the mobile home which they did not. All notices were upheld (East Dorset 23/3/99 DCS No. 032-442-052).


An enforcement notice which claimed the unlawful residential occupation of a caravan was quashed by an inspector in (Derbyshire Dales 23/03/06 DCS No.100-041-670). The appellants made a number of claims in the appeal, including the removal of the unit's wheels and method of fixing to the ground, meant that it ceased to be a mobile home and therefore should be subject to the four year rule. Alternatively, should this not be accepted, the caravan had been on the site for a period in excess of ten years and was still immune from action. The inspector accepted that the wheels had been removed but found that they could be replaced and the caravan could be transported. Furthermore, the degree of fixing was not strong and it remained a mobile home. However, it had been on the land for ten years and, therefore, was immune from action.


An enforcement notice was issued requiring the removal of an unauthorised residential caravan on agricultural land and associated services and chattels in (Carrick 29/08/07 DCS No.100-050-183). Mansi v Elstree DC and Murfitt v SOS were cited in the case in which the inspector concluded that the claim that the caravans "may" be required for agriculture was not sufficient for their retention. It was also argued that the associated operational developments, the electricity, water and telephone connections, could be used for agricultural purposes and it would not be reasonable to require their removal. The inspector found no compelling need for these developments on what had been used previously a meadow. However, an appeal involving the provision of similar services on a site within the Green Belt (Leeds 18/10/06 DCS No.100-045-250) was allowed.


Whether material change of use has occurred    4.3532


The siting of a conventional caravan is normally considered to be a material change of use of land, but it may be asked whether the substitution of an existing caravan by a much larger structure could constitute a material change of use of land. This point was raised in (South Bedfordshire 18/8/99 DCS No.036-273-362) where an inspector judged that the substitution of a slightly larger caravan for one that had been stationed lawfully was not a material change of use. It was reasoned that there was would be no significant intensification on substantially larger comings and goings. The increased size did not alter the character of the land and the use remained essentially the stationing of a single caravan for residential purposes. Please note that this case is also referred to in (4.353). It is worth noting that where a mobile home has had its wheels removed, or has acquired a degree of permanency through becoming physically attached to the ground, and is connected to main services, it can be distinguished from a caravan. It will become a building operation and be treated as a dwelling house to which policies controlling replacement and extension will apply.

Rallies and Caravan Club

An enforcement notice directed against the use of land for the holding of caravan rallies was the subject in (Kings Lynn and West Norfolk 29/04/08 DCS No.100-055-257). Whilst the use of the land for rallies was held to be permitted development, the associated operational development of electrical hook-ups, hardstandings and water stand pipes were not. The hook-ups and the hardstandings should be removed for visual amenity reasons, but the water pipes could remain as they could fulfil an agricultural function.

Kings Lynn and West Norfolk: notice directed against use of land for holding of caravan rallies

The use of land that was already used by the Caravan Club for the siting of 5 caravans under Part 5 of the GPDO was proposed to be used as a 30 touring van site. This was held to constitute a material change in the use of the land (Pembrokeshire 27/03/07 DCS No.100-048-039).
Accommodation in connection with building and engineering operations

Despite substantially completing the erection of a dwelling, an owner continued to reside in a mobile home claiming it was a temporary use whilst the building operations were undertaken (South Gloucestershire 30/10/07 DCS No.100-051-225). The claim was made under the rights conferred by Class A Part 4 of the GPDO or, alternatively, Part 5 of the Order. An inspector dismissed the claims. That made under Part 4 as this expressly excludes the use of land as a caravan site. That under Part 5 for two reasons: firstly, she had taken no part in the construction of the dwelling, having instructed contractors; and, secondly, as the dwelling was virtually complete there was no justification for the caravan to remain.

South Gloucestershire: owner continued to reside in mobile home despite substantially completing dwelling

An enforcement notice was served against an unauthorised residential caravan on a farm where a dwelling was being erected. Whilst the inspector opined that the caravan was permitted development for short periods, this and the building works were not sufficient to justify the use of the land for the caravan as permitted development (Harrogate 13/07/07 DCS No.100-048-511).
A claim by appellants that a caravan was sited on a nursery site under the permitted development rights conferred by Part 5 of the GPDO was dismissed (Allerdale 12/01/06 DCS No.100-040-739). It was claimed that it provided accommodation for workers undertaking building operations for which planning permission had been granted. The inspector noted that the appellants had stated at the application stage that they needed to live on the site to run the nursery. The GPDO did not, he concluded, allow for the simultaneous use of the caravan for the two purposes.
Seasonal limits exceeded

A mobile home and 2 caravans were brought onto land without permission in (Tunbridge Wells 14/02/08 DCS No.100-053-239) where it was claimed at appeal that the stationing of the mobile home was permitted under Part 5 Class A of the GPDO 1995 which allows for the seasonal siting of a caravan. The inspector disagreed stating that the 8 month 'season' was too broad and, as they were not removed from the land, they would appear to be permanently stored and there would be a material change of use.


Similarly, an appellant claimed that a caravan was required during lambing, potato planting and harvesting 'seasons' and would therefore be on the site throughout the year. This would not be 'seasonal'. Despite the caravan moving a few inches between each 'season', it was tantamount to a permanent presence on the site, and was not permitted development under Part 5 of the GPDO (Herefordshire 26/10/06 DCS No.100-045-211).
In another case, an enforcement notice was served by a council, in (Rother 22/10/98 DCS No.052-977-672), requiring the removal of a residential caravan from land and cessation of the residential use of the land. The appellant claimed that the occupation of the caravan was seasonal in accordance with the terms of Part 5 Class A.2 of the GPDO 1995. It had been occupied during May to September, then unoccupied and moved to a different part of the land for a three week period before being re-sited on its concrete base. Quoting White Horse DC v Mirmalek-Sani 1993, the inspector stated that a season cannot last all year. The appellants claimed that the period from January to September comprised the season for bedding plants. The inspector opined that this length of time, covering the entire cycle from sowing to harvest, was not what was directed in the term season by the Act. The appeal failed.


The SOS decided a case of unauthorised development relating to the change of use of land where 300 caravans had been sited on an 8.6 hectare site (Herefordshire 11/04/07 DCS No.100-048-274). It was held that the appellant's case failed as its definition of "season" was too long and, even were the caravans to be temporarily removed, the associated hardstandings, roads and amenity buildings would not allow the land to be used for agriculture.

Incidental or ancillary to primary use

A claim by the landlord of a public house on Humberside that the siting of static caravans for occupation by guests on a bed and breakfast basis had not triggered a material change of use was rejected by an inspector who decided that a breach of control had occurred. The inspector accepted that where the use of a caravan was incidental to the primary use of the land, no development was involved. In doing so he noted an appeal decision in Cornwall where the use of a caravan for overflow staff accommodation had been judged not to have led to the change of use of a hotel. However, in this case the caravans were being used to generate business by accommodating guests and holidaymakers and each caravan had up to three bedrooms. Thus, the accommodation potentially available exceeded that within the public house itself. Accordingly, their siting and use was not ancillary to the lawful use of the site (East Riding of Yorkshire 12/4/11 DCS No.100-071-943).


A claim that two caravans on a farm were used for shelter for workers on land was dismissed (Tunbridge Wells 20/12/05 DCS No.100-040-530). He concluded that they were used for residential purposes and were not used for purposes ancillary to the use of the land, as claimed.
An enforcement notice required the removal of a caravan from land that the council asserted was outside the curtilage of a dwelling, and could not therefore be incidental to its use. It further argued that even were it to be held to be within the curtilage, it was not being used for purposes incidental to the enjoyment of the dwellinghouse. The inspector sided with the appellants on both counts (Sedgemoor 06/06/08 DCS No.100-055-796).


Six caravans were sited in the garden of a house where, it was alleged, they were used as separate residences (Arun 17/02/06 DCS No.100-041-333). In response the appellant argued that they were used for purposes incidental to the enjoyment of the dwelling house as facilities within the house were used; and, furthermore, they were occupied by persons undertaking works to the dwelling. They were, therefore, permitted under Part A of Class 5 of the GPDO. The inspector opined that as the house was being unlawfully used as a building in multi-occupation, there could be no incidental use. The inspector dismissed the Part 5 argument, noting that the caravans had been on site for 7 years and there was no evidence of works that would require the number of people that the caravans could accommodate on site for that period of time.


See also (4.354) below for discussion of whether the use of a caravan in a residential curtilage for "purposes incidental to the enjoyment of the dwellinghouse as such" falls within the primary use of the dwelling, so that it is excluded from the definition of development.

Material change of use as a result of intensification

An increase in scale alone is insufficient to lead to a material change of use if the impacts of such do not lead to a definable change in the character of the use. In the case of an increase in the numbers of caravans, such an increase would be controllable under the terms of a planning permission and site licence. An example of a decision in which it was necessary to determine whether additional caravans would materially change the use of a site is (Test Valley 17/1/11 DCS No.100-070-659). Here an application for an LDC was supported by a claim that permission was not required to increase the number of caravans sited on land to 15. The site benefited from an LDC which confirmed that the land could lawfully be used for five residential caravans. It was necessary to make a comparison between five caravans and the 15 proposed to determine whether the additional 10 would change the character of the site and trigger a material change of use. The existing structures sat within a predominantly open environment with significant gaps between them and did not dominate it. In contrast, siting 15 mobile homes in rows around an internal access road would result in a much denser mass of development, reducing openness and making a definable change in the character of the land.


Material change of use as a result of a change in caravan type


Whether the replacement of caravans of one type for another, for example touring caravans with static holiday caravans, at a lawful site is a change of use can be a matter for debate if the replacement or additional units are found to be sufficiently mobile not to be deemed building operations. It is often argued that there will be no material difference in planning terms as both types of caravan fall within the compass of the amended Caravan Act definition. However, some have averred quite cogently that the Caravan Act cannot pre-empt a planning judgment 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 (Ashford 3/7/07 DCS No. 100-049-388).


In another case (Mid-Suffolk 22/6/11 DCS No.100-072-796), an appeal against refusal of an application for an LDC for a mixed gypsy and general caravan use of a site with planning permission for gypsy caravan use was dismissed. The inspector concluded that a gypsy caravan site can, as a matter of fact and degree, be distinguished in character from a general caravan site in terms of the size of the pitches, the arrangement of static and touring caravans, accommodation of extended family groups, and the presence and movement of commercial vehicles.

Whether 1968 Act dimensions exceeded?    4.3533


As noted, the 1968 Act set out precise dimensions to be complied with in terms of double-units, and it is still not entirely clean whether these dimensions only apply to double units, onto caravans as a generality. Further contention has arisen as to how these dimensions should be measured, and whether excesses are de minimis. In the latter respect it is of note that between one and two inches was considered to be of no consequence in the Ynys Mon case but in the Maidstone case 0.81 m was definitely felt not to be de minimis.


Multiple enforcement notices were served on residents at a caravan park in Anglesey in an A.O.N.B. It was alleged that "Terrapin" structures had been sited which fell outside the definition of a caravan in various ways: a) they were more than 20 feet wide; b) they were composed of more than two separately constructed units by virtue of the roof design and construction; c) they were incapable of being moved by road from one place to another by virtue of the design and construction of the porch. In addition "O'Neill" and Cosalt" structures infringed the 20 feet width rule.
An inspector considered that in his opinion the correct interpretation of the width criterion requirement in the 1968 Act did not include eaves, guttering and porches. He quoted letters from the D.O.E. to the National Caravan Council which held to the commonsense view that anyone measuring a caravan would do so from surface to surface and not eave to eave. Although the Cosalt and O'Neill units measured between one and two inches more than 20 feet, he considered this de minimis.


Referring to the "Terrapin" units he considered that open-sided porches as provided by the manufacturers as optional extras should not be part of the width measurement, and thus they complied with the definition of a caravan in this respect. The allegation that "Terrapins" were not twin units because their roof trusses composed a third section was rejected. The inspector noted that the roof trusses were in fact fixed at the factory and it was only the fixing of tiles that took place on-site. This did not mean that the roof was a third. In addition the inspector did not consider that the porches already referred to were third sections.


The third allegation, that the "Terrapin" units could not be transported by road because of their porches, was also rejected. A demonstration was arranged which convinced the inspector on this point (Ynys Mon B.C. 25/10/91 DCS No. 053-968-392).
The S.O.S. considered that a wall to wall measurement was more appropriate than eaves to eaves measurement, and the units concerned therefore complied. He ventured the opinion that an exaggerated eaves overhang covering a porch or veranda built up from the floor level of the structure might lead to different assessment (Mid Sussex D.C. 21/2/96 DCS 056-146-061).


It was claimed that an enforcement notice was defective in alleging a caravan site as the unit concerned was 0.81 metres wider than the statutory definition. An inspector agreed that this was in excess of anything that could be described as de mimimis (Maidstone D.C. 27/10/92 100-027-681).

Whether 1960 Act transportability criteria transgressed?    4.3534


As already noted the 1960 Act refers to a caravan as being capable of being towed or transported on another vehicle, and the 1968 Act infers that if a double unit were to be moved the fact that such a load could not be lawfully be transported on the highway system is not relevant.
The court case Pugsley v S.O.S. & North Devon D.C. 9/6/96 also confirmed that the fact that the narrowness of tracks and lanes at a particular site would prevent a structure being moved, was no impediment to the transportability criterion being satisfied. However, in Byrne v S.O.S. & Arun D.C. 27/2/97 it was considered that in applying the transportability test, one could have regard to the fact that although a structure could be capable of being placed on a vehicle it could be cracked or damaged in the process of being moved from where it was. These two views were compared in (West Dorset D.C. 15/6/98 047-852-593) and an inspector felt that the judgement in Byrne was rather tentative and the Pugsley approach was to be preferred.
It is of note that in the East Dorset case described below, an inspector was not totally clear as to whether the transportability criterion applied to parts of the structure or the whole unit, and the Tandridge inspector was referring to the test being applied to the component halves. However, the view of the courts in Tyler v S.O.S. & Woodspring B.C 13/9/90 and Carter v S.O.S. & Carrick D.C. 14/3/94 has been that the transportability test is only satisfied if the whole of a structure and not its separated component parts is capable of being moved away on a vehicle.

Whether operational development has occurred?    4.3531


The tests for whether a structure placed on land has a sufficient degree of permanency to be judged "operational" development in terms of sec.55 of the 1990 Act are documented at (4.3112). As noted above, in terms of caravans, these tests have become overlain with importations from caravan related legislation.


Any structure which falls outside the portability and dimensional criteria of the definition of a caravan in the Caravan Sites Acts of 1960 and 1968 and Amendment Order 2006, or has a sufficient degree of permanence through physical attachment to the ground or to main services, will involve operational development. In respect of applications for static timber clad caravans or 'lodges' the decision whether the proposal involves the erection of buildings will have a significant effect on the application fee payable.


When it can be shown that an existing caravan having the conventional characteristics of mobility has been adapted by the addition of foundations, brick skirts on other permanent additions which would clearly indicate that it is intended to be a permanent fixture, decision makers have often relied on these features to infer that fresh development has occurred. Of course, it may be critically important in terms of enforcement cases to determine whether operational development has occurred (where the four year rule is appropriate) or whether the siting of a caravan is not a building operation, rather a change of use of land (where the ten year rule is applicable).


The following cases demonstrate varied situations which have been explored.


An enforcement notice directed at the siting of a mobile home at a dwelling in Devon was quashed because the unit was permitted development. The council argued that although it was sited within residential curtilage, planning permission would still be required because what had occurred was operational development. The caravan had been brought to the site in numerous pieces. Accordingly, the council took the view that it would not meet the definition of a caravan in the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 as modified by the Caravan Sites Act 1968. The manufacturer gave evidence that the structure was fabricated in his factory but, after ascertaining that access to the site would be difficult in two sections, it was taken apart and transported to the site in smaller segments. It was then re-assembled into two sections which were bolted together, and which were capable of being lifted onto a trailer. The inspector considered that the provision in section 13 of the 1968 Act for the final two sections to be assembled on site had been met. He decided that the unit was a standard twin-unit caravan. The unit erected amounted to permitted development and met statutory provisions for caravans, he ruled. The appeal succeeded and the notice was quashed (West Devon 1/9/08 DCS No.100-057-608).

West Devon: unit was a standard twin-unit caravan

Enforcement action was taken against a "caravan" which had had its wheels removed. The inspector at appeal had decided that the structure was now more akin to a portable cabin and that therefore the notice should be quashed as it ought to have alleged operational development. The local authority appealed and it was judged that the inspector could have varied the notice. The case was remitted back to the S.O.S. Wealden D.C. v S.O.S. 21/10/82.
Enforcement action had been taken against chalet type structures known as Permohomes. The site had previously been a caravan site with established use rights for 6 residential units. The two notices were served in almost identical terms except one also referred to the Permohomes not being caravans as defined in the 1960 and 1968 Acts. At appeal the notices had been upheld but on appeal to the High Court Short v S.O.S. and North Dorset D.C. 3/9/90, it was ordered that the matter be remitted for redetermination. The court stated that the first inspector had erred in respect of one of the notices in comparing the Permohomes with caravans as defined by the ordinary and natural meaning of the word, whereas he should have used the statutory meaning. A second inspector then reported. The S.O.S. concluded that the Permohomes were prefabricated dwellings and not caravans because of the permanent nature of the development and the construction of the foundations. However, he felt that the impact of the new dwellings was not sufficiently different from the established caravan use to warrant refusal of planning permission for retention (North Dorset 10/4/91 DCS No.042-224-444).


An enforcement notice alleged a material change of use of land involving the siting of a twin unit mobile home. A brick and blockwork extension had been applied but it was noted that the unit complied with the Caravan Sites Act dimensions and the extension was only an ancillary operation development which could be demolished to facilitate transportability. As the four year rule did not apply the notice was upheld. The case was taken to the High Court on the basis that the inspector's views on fixation had not been properly addressed, and this view was upheld. The decision also addressed the question of transportabilty as noted at (4.3534) Pugsley v S.O.S. & North Devon D.C. 9/5/96.


In an enforcement case an inspector had concluded that caravans were not buildings. A court held that the correct tests as laid down in Barvis and Elitestone (see 4.3112) had been followed. It was argued that caravans were buildings as the 1960 Act referred to structures and because of the permanency of their occupation. It was held that it was contrary to the purpose of the Act and commonness to treat mobile caravans as buildings. In the present case the caravans lacked the degree of permanence and attached to constitute buildings Measor v S.O.S. & Tunbridge Wells B.C. 6/8/98.


Two enforcement notices alleged a change of use involving two mobile homes and unauthorised extensions. The mobile homes were brought onto the site as second hand caravans and subsequently various works including plumbing, erection of block walls, mains services and extensions were undertaken. Under ground (d) it was claimed that in September 1989 the caravans were occupied residentially such that under the 10 year rule, they were not immune from action. However it was also claimed that one of the caravans became a dwellinghouse due to the works carried out before 1994 and thus the 4 year period was met. An inspector considered the statutory definition of a caravan and the judgement in Measor, where the court upheld an inspector's decision that certain mobile homes and touring caravans had not become buildings, but remained caravans for planning control purposes, despite being "structures" and the subject of long-term residential occupation. Various other cases of decisions in respect of whether occupation of a mobile home on caravan constituted a use or operation and reference to Development Control Practice was made. The economic considerations associated with moving the caravans were irrelevant in assessing its mobility. It was concluded that at all times the caravan remained a caravan. With regard to the extensions, much debate centred upon the extent of the curtilage and whether the second caravan was a dwellinghouse which preserved GPDO rights. It was concluded that the extensions were unlawful since they were unauthorised and facilitated an unlawful use. They were not immune. If the caravan were removed they could not remain as independent structures. A similar conclusion was reached in respect of a garage extension exceeded the GPDO tolerances even if such tolerances applied to the mobile home which they did not. All notices were upheld (East Dorset 23/3/99 DCS No. 032-442-052).


An enforcement notice which claimed the unlawful residential occupation of a caravan was quashed by an inspector in (Derbyshire Dales 23/03/06 DCS No.100-041-670). The appellants made a number of claims in the appeal, including the removal of the unit's wheels and method of fixing to the ground, meant that it ceased to be a mobile home and therefore should be subject to the four year rule. Alternatively, should this not be accepted, the caravan had been on the site for a period in excess of ten years and was still immune from action. The inspector accepted that the wheels had been removed but found that they could be replaced and the caravan could be transported. Furthermore, the degree of fixing was not strong and it remained a mobile home. However, it had been on the land for ten years and, therefore, was immune from action.


An enforcement notice was issued requiring the removal of an unauthorised residential caravan on agricultural land and associated services and chattels in (Carrick 29/08/07 DCS No.100-050-183). Mansi v Elstree DC and Murfitt v SOS were cited in the case in which the inspector concluded that the claim that the caravans "may" be required for agriculture was not sufficient for their retention. It was also argued that the associated operational developments, the electricity, water and telephone connections, could be used for agricultural purposes and it would not be reasonable to require their removal. The inspector found no compelling need for these developments on what had been used previously a meadow. However, an appeal involving the provision of similar services on a site within the Green Belt (Leeds 18/10/06 DCS No.100-045-250) was allowed.

Motor caravans    4.3535
Motor caravans fall within the definition of a "caravan" following Backer v S.O.S. & Wealden D.C. 25/5/83. Here it was held that a converted Commer van was a "caravan" provided that it had been designed for human habitation or had been physically altered in some way for that purpose. Other types of motor vehicles which have been so altered will therefore also come within the definition of caravan.

Degree of human habitation    4.354


The 1960 Act refers to a caravan site as being land on which a caravan is stationed for the purpose of human habitation, but there can be varying degrees of use and legal problems may arise when the extent of residential habitation is at issue.


The degree to which use as a day shelter can be held to be ancillary to the agricultural use of land was the subject of the court case Wealden D.C. v S.O.S. & Day 7/12/87, and in this instance, use of a caravan for storage, shelter and food preparation was considered to be incidental to the permitted use of agricultural land and therefore did not represent a breach of planning control, despite the fact that the caravan was designed equipped for human habitation. (see also 22.1133). In another case (Winchester 16/7/87 DCS No.050-239-240) it was judged that the two or three nights that a caravan had been slept in an agricultural holding were de minimis. This question was also discussed in the case (Carrick 18/3/86 DCS No.053-247-425) where the opinion was given that four nights a week sleeping in a converted bus was development. Clearly the dividing line between a caravan being ancillary to a main use of land and being used for habitation is a matter of fact and degree, but sleeping in a caravan kept for the purposes of agricultural emergencies or strictly limited seasonal use is not generally held to be a material change of use.


The circumstances in which a single caravan in a garden may be "incidental" to the use of a dwellinghouse are considered in detail at (24.61) but in general terms the use of a caravan in a residential curtilage for "purposes incidental to the enjoyment of the dwellinghouse as such" falls within the primary use of the dwelling, so it is excluded from the definition of development. The term "incidental" is not defined in planning law but Whitehead v Secretary of State and Mole Valley District Council [1991) intimated that semi-independent housekeeper's accommodation in a barn within a dwelling's curtilage could be incidental to its enjoyment and thus permission was not required. In Uttlesford District Council v Secretary of State for the Environment and White [1992], it was held that the conversion of a garage in a residential curtilage to a granny annexe had not resulted in a material change of use, despite it including facilities that enabled the occupier to live independently. The general approach of the courts is that it is the actual use of a caravan that is determinative rather than its potential to be occupied as a self-contained residential unit.

Q & A    4.35/10
A householder regularly parks within his small front garden an old commercial coach which contains bunk beds, cooking facilities, a fridge, toilet, washing facilities, carpets and a TV. It also incorporates a small workshop and storage area for the repair and maintenance of go-karts whilst at track events. The householder claims that the coach is now a "caravan" as it has "been adapted for human habitation", as referred to at sec 13 of the Caravan Sites Act 1968, and has become a "recreational vehicle" "incidental to the enjoyment of the dwelling". This seems to be supported by Backer v SoS & Wealden DC [1983]. However, the coach materially harms neighbouring properties and the character of the estate. While my authority accepts that the coach might fall within the definition of a caravan, could it be argued that it is so large and it has such an impact that it is not 'incidental to the enjoyment of the dwelling' as a matter of fact and degree? If so, do case law or appeal decisions support this argument?


In view of the Backer case, I agree that the coach is now a "caravan". The siting of an empty caravan does not normally involve development provided a material change of use has not occurred to a use for the storage of caravans. However, as soon as a caravan is inhabited as a dwelling, permission will be required except where the extent of such residential occupation is de minimis or the use is within the curtilage of a dwellinghouse, as is the case here, and is incidental to its enjoyment. Although I can find no cases where the latter has been debated in relation a caravan's size, scale has been a factor when determining whether other uses such as the keeping of dogs, or the construction of stables or fish tanks go beyond what could reasonably be considered 'incidental'. As I think that this matter is arguable, the authority should take enforcement action and put the onus on the householder to show that there has been no breach of control.

Response

I fundamentally disagree with this advice. The suggested approach to enforcement would be to invite a costs award against the planning authority. It is a common misapprehension that land within the curtilage of a single private dwellinghouse can be used only for purposes strictly incidental to the enjoyment of the dwellinghouse as such. All land within the same planning unit can be used for all purposes, including both primary and ancillary uses, falling within the same use class - in this case C3, provided it does not amount to a separate dwelling. If used for any domestic purposes falling short of occupation as a separate dwelling, the stationing of the converted coach is undoubtedly a lawful use. If merely stored, the question to be determined is whether storage of such a vehicle within the domestic curtilage can reasonably be said to fall within the range of the domestic activities reasonably associated with a residential use. If the vehicle can be said to be a caravan then its storage will almost certainly come within this definition and therefore be lawful. There might, on the other hand, be an analogy with the storage of other large vehicles, which has in some cases been found not to be ancillary to the residential use and therefore a material change of use to a mixed domestic and storage use. Some large-scale hobby activities may similarly fall on the wrong side of the line. However, the planning authority should certainly not serve an enforcement notice on a purely speculative basis. A clear breach of planning control needs to be identified first.

I agree with much of what is being said. Section 55(2)(d) of the 1990 Act confers the right to use any buildings or other land within the curtilage of a dwellinghouse for any purpose incidental to the enjoyment of the dwellinghouse as such. This includes incidental uses which do not amount to development, such as the storage of a touring caravan or a boat, but not commercial vehicles. However, whether such uses are incidental is always a question of fact and degree. In Wallington v SoS for Wales [1991] the courts ruled that this must include an element of "objective reasonableness". Thus in an appeal decision from Lancashire in 2000 (046-333-088) an inspector upheld enforcement action requiring the removal of a 9.5 m. long boat which took up most of a small front garden despite the owner's claims that it was related to his hobby and was incidental to the enjoyment of the dwellinghouse as such. The inspector held that matters of scale were relevant and that while the keeping of a sailing dingy would be incidental, a boat almost 10m long which was out of scale with the garden within which it was sited and harmed the streetscene was not. I cannot see why the objective reasonableness test should not apply to the converted coach or why, given the serious harm apparently caused, the authority should be liable for costs on appeal.

Further response

Although I am a mere planning student, I was alarmed by this advice. The planning system that I am currently getting to know seems riddled with inconsistencies and ambiguities. While some may be the 'nature of the beast', to my mind others are clearly avoidable. It may well be unreasonable to park such a large vehicle in a front garden thereby harming the general amenity of neighbours. However, the approach described is not dissimilar to driving at 28mph along a very narrow lane where the speed limit is 30mph, yet giving a police officer the ability to charge an individual with speeding if in his opinion the speed was excessive in relation to the location, without having to prove that any other dangerous conditions existed. Surely such decisions create the conditions for a high degree of subjectivity? Would it not be possible to apply a set percentage ratio and therefore remove the subjective aspect?

Planning is a quasi-judicial process where material considerations are weighed in the balance. Some may be informed by objective criteria. However others, such as visual impact or the effect of a particular use on surrounding living conditions, inevitably rely largely on subjective assessments. Hence the use of the phrase "science and art of town planning" in the RTPI's charter. In the case of householder developments, while building operations can be assessed by reference to physical criteria, this is not normally practicable for uses, including those for the storage of chattels. A judgement must therefore be based on questions of fact and degree, having regard to the scale, nature and effect of the use on its surroundings. While various rules of thumb have been established, such as for the keeping of a certain number of dogs and so forth, it is unreasonable to apply these without some form of critical analysis as circumstances can differ significantly.

My client has a lawful development certificate for a mobile home in the green belt and wishes to replace it with a larger one that still falls within the definition of a caravan given in the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960. However, during discussions with the planning authority, it has cited policies which relate to the extension of dwellings. I had always understood that a mobile home was predominantly a land use and not a building, so such policies do not apply. If the mobile home is a caravan then is permission needed for its replacement?


Where a mobile home has had its wheels removed, or has acquired a degree of permanence through becoming physically attached to the ground, and is connected to main services, it can be distinguished from a caravan. It will become a building operation and be treated as a dwellinghouse. If the existing mobile home has remained within the definition of a caravan set out in the 1960 Act, it will continue to amount to a use of the land on which it is stationed. In such circumstances, its replacement by another mobile home that also satisfies the legal tests for a caravan would not need permission. However, in an appeal decision from South Bedfordshire in 1999 (DCS No: 036-273-362) an inspector held that regardless of whether the statutory definition of a caravan had been transgressed or not, since there had been no material change of use involved when a smaller caravan was replaced by a larger one, there had been no development.

A caravan sited on agricultural land has a long history of enforcement proceedings against its residential use, culminating in a successful court action. However, the caravan has remained on site with the same level of equipment. This includes washing, eating and sleeping facilities such as a cooker, kitchen utensils, toilet, fridge, washing machine, TV, video, telephone and made-up bed. My authority continues to receive complaints that people are occupying the caravan and staying overnight. While it accepts that the caravan can be used as a day shelter for meal breaks in connection with the management of the holding, does that justify such a well-equipped caravan? Are there any precedents where the level of facilities has been debated and is it necessary for the caravan to be slept in for the authority to argue that it is a residential unit which needs permission?


I can find no case where this has been debated. There is nothing in Part 5 of Schedule 2 of the GPDO on the standard of a caravan or its amenities. However, for the purposes of sec 55 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, a caravan is a chattel and it is thus its actual use rather than the way in which it has been fitted out that determines whether there has been a material change in use of the land on which it is stationed. The presence of domestic items, may, however, form part of the "evidential matrix" to support allegations that the caravan has been lived in. In Wealden District Council v. Secretary of State for the Environment[1988] it was held that the use of a caravan for the storage of animal feed and for shelter may be incidental to the permitted use of agricultural land and therefore not represent a breach of planning control, despite the fact that the caravan was designed for human habitation. But if the caravan is actually used for residential purposes, then that will amount to a material change in the use of previously agricultural land, unless permission has already been granted by the Order.

I recently submitted an application for five timber-clad caravans or "lodges" in a caravan park that has pitches for both touring and static caravans. I sought permission for change of use, with the appropriate fee, because there are no static caravans on the land in question and all the applications I have ever been involved with or seen have taken this approach. However, the planning authority says the proposal involves the erection of buildings and insists on the application fee being calculated on that basis. Is it correct?


It depends on whether the lodges involve operational development. If they fall within the definition of a caravan in the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960, as supplemented by the Caravan Sites Act 1968, the application should be assessed as a change of use of the land on which the lodges would be sited. The definition refers to "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. Units of 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. So any structure falling outside these portability and dimensional criteria, or having a sufficient degree of permanence such as through adaptations to physically attach it to the ground or to connect it to main services, will involve operational development and the application fee should be calculated accordingly.
Response

The dimensions of a caravan have been extended to 20m by 6.8m by 3.05m as a result of an ODPM consultation paper issued last year and the subsequent response.

As far as I am aware, this remains a proposal that is still under consideration by the Government and therefore the dimensions set out in my reply will continue to apply for the time being. Any change will need to be the subject of a statutory instrument in due course. The reason for the proposed change is to enable external cladding to be fixed to caravans that are already the maximum size permissible, to provide greater insulation and energy efficiency.

Permission was refused for two residential caravans in a small yard because the planning authority feared that it would be difficult to stop further caravans using the site and these would cause traffic problems. Can an authority refuse permission for something that has not even been applied for on the basis that adverse effects might result from an intensification of a proposed use, even though no problems are caused by the actual development? Could it not have restricted the number of caravans by condition or considered the use of enforcement powers? Is there any case law that supports the authority's position?


Planning authorities are entitled to consider the precedent that would be set by granting permission but must also assess whether any unacceptable effects or intensification in use could be controlled by condition. In Lowrie v Secretary of State for Scotland [1988], the court upheld a reporter's decision to refuse permission for a development because it would make it difficult to resist future harmful development even though it would in itself be innocuous. However, the courts have held that where such an approach is taken, mere fear and generalised concern is not enough. There must be evidence that permission would lead to an accumulation of harm. As you point out, in your case it might well have been possible to limit the effects of the development and the consequences for traffic generation by restricting the number of caravans to those for which permission had been sought.

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 [1983], 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.

A 13m mobile home on wheels has been stationed in a garden more than 5m from the house. It includes a living room, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen and is connected to mains power and drains. The unit is occupied by the householder's mother. It is claimed that it is used as ancillary accommodation with the mother spending the day in the house. My authority considers the mobile home a self-contained unit of accommodation that requires permission. The householder disagrees, citing Whitehead v Secretary of State and Mole Valley District Council [1991]. What is your advice?


The mobile home appears to be a caravan that has not involved operational development. The use of a caravan in a residential curtilage for "purposes incidental to the enjoyment of the dwellinghouse as such" falls within the primary use of the dwelling, so it is excluded from the definition of development. The term "incidental" is not defined in planning law. But Whitehead intimated that semi-independent housekeeper's accommodation in a barn within a dwelling's curtilage could be incidental to its enjoyment and thus permission was not required. In Uttlesford District Council v Secretary of State for the Environment and White [1992], it was held that the conversion of a garage in a residential curtilage to a granny annexe had not resulted in a material change of use, despite it including facilities that enabled the occupier to live independently. The general approach of the courts is that it is the actual use of a caravan that is determinative rather than its potential to be occupied as a self-contained residential unit. So permission may not be required for the mobile home.


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.

I am dealing with an enforcement investigation into whether a new timber lodge 10m from the rear of a rural house requires planning permission. The accommodation is occupied by the owner's parents who were previously housed in a caravan in the front garden, when the facilities of the house were used on a day-to-day basis. This was deemed to be 'incidental to the enjoyment of the dwellinghouse'. The present lodge can be transported in two pieces and therefore complies with the definition in the Caravan Sites Act 1968. However, it is arguable whether the lodge is, in fact, within the residential curtilage of the main house. Additionally the lodge is separated from the house by a picket fence, it has its own council tax banding and, so far as I am aware, water and electricity supply are separately metered. There is only one access to the site and both buildings share it. Can you comment on whether the lodge is an independent unit which could be successfully enforced against? DU.


Enforcement cases of this kind raise a complexity of issues. The first of these is the need to establish whether the structure that has been placed on the land is a building operation or not. As has been debated in Forum before, the mere fact that a structure is termed a caravan using the criteria cited in the 1968 Act, may not necessarily mean that it is not a building operation for the purposes of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. In the case of the 'lodge' type of accommodation you mention it may well be that its supports and service connections give it sufficient characteristics of permanency for permission to be required . For instance, in a 2007 appeal case from the West Midlands (DCS Number 100-050-239) an inspector found that rear garden parent's accommodation was a 'mobile home installed as a structure', where specially constructed supports or foundations had been constructed and plumbing and sewerage systems installed.
The main matter to be resolved is, of course, whether a separate residence has been established on the land resulting in the creation of a new planning unit requiring planning permission. In the case you describe many of the indicators that the accommodation is separate, and does not rely on the main house, seem to be in place. Its curtilage has been defined and service connections are separate, even though access is shared. Such a 'lodge' building is certain to provide all the necessary domestic facilities enabling it used independently. The lifestyle question, namely how the accommodation is actually used, is also part of the matrix of considerations that may arise in evidence. For example, in the appeal case already cited, the inspector noted that the parents concerned always slept in the accommodation, used the bathroom and toilet, rested in the unit in the afternoons, and took some meals there. This led him to believe that a separate dwelling s not ancillary to the main house had been created.
The final consideration concerns the input of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995. If the lodge is deemed to be a building, and provided it is within the curtilage of the dwelling house, as a 'incidental' garden structure it is likely to fall within Part 1 Class E as permitted development. However, according to the government's controversial interpretation of the Order this does not apply if the building is immediately used for primary living accommodation.
In summary, in order for your council's potential enforcement to be successful and survive the likely appeal, it does need to assess very carefully whether it has sufficient hard evidence to justify an allegation of an unauthorized building and/or a material change of use. GH

In 1995 a council served an enforcement notice on a caravan. This was removed. However the owner then built a chalet which he occupied until his death in 2005. An application for a Certificate of Lawful Development was submitted by new owners in September 2005. This was refused in October 2007. As part of the appeal evidence three signed affidavits supporting the occupation were submitted and the council requested the appeal be put in abeyance while a fresh application was submitted which they would support. However they then changed their mind and requested the appeal proceed on the grounds that the enforcement notice on the caravan still applied as it was a "change of use from general agricultural use to private domestic use by the siting and residential use of a caravan". The LPA now wants the appeal withdrawn as they claim the notice relates to the site and is still extant. If it is not withdrawn they say they will claim for costs based on unreasonable behaviour. Is it unreasonable to invite the inspector to determine the matter and rule on the point of law? GK.

Under the provisions of s191(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 as amended by the Planning and Compensation Act 1991, an enforcement notice "trumps" lawful development rights, i.e. one cannot gain four or ten year immunity if there is a valid enforcement notice against that development. Thus, had a further caravan been brought on the site after the removal of the original one, there would have been no question of the occupier gaining lawful development rights. In this instance, however, the erection and occupation of a chalet is a different breach of planning control from the siting of a caravan, so this issue does not arise. It might be that the council considers the chalet is actually a caravan bearing in mind the broad definition of one in the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 as amended, so in preparing your appeal it would be advisable to produce evidence to counter that argument. JH.

A client wants to place a marble plate giving the name of the caravan park within a new wall at the entrance of his caravan park.  Permission has been given for the wall but the council asked my client to submit a separate advertisement application for the sign.  Having checked the Control of Advertisement Regulations 2007 (Advertisement Regulations), the sign does not qualify for deemed consent by virtue of size and illumination.  However, the site licence requires "a notice indicating the name of the site shall be prominently displayed at the site entrance".  Under part 5, class B of schedule 2 of the General Permitted Development Order, works required by the conditions of a site licence are permitted development and I wonder therefore if this overrides the Advertisement Regulations? SD.
The display of advertisements which require advertisement consent is covered by the Advertisement Regulations and this is a separate legislative code from the Town and Country Planning Act and associated provisions which covers development requiring planning permission. Thus, part 5 class B of the General Permitted Development Order cannot permit this advertisement.
The sign might in theory be permitted by class F of schedule 1 of the Advertisement Regulations which allows the display of advertisements required by law. From your question it seems to be too large for class 2A of schedule 3, however, the provision under which a caravan site entrance name sign could normally be displayed with deemed consent. As class F has the limitation that signs that do not meet schedule 3 size limitations are not permitted by this class, the council is correct in requesting an application.