Mere intensification of use did not amount to breach of planning control

Where there is a change of emphasis as between two permitted planning uses the mere intensification of the particular use will not necessarily amount to a material change of use requiring planning permission. The test is whether there had been a material change in the character of the mixed site use.

In Reed v The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Anor [2014] a 2007 planning permission was for a caravan site for one gypsy family. There was a condition limiting the number of caravans to not more than two caravans, as defined in the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960.

An enforcement notice alleged mixed use for equestrian purposes and the stationing of two number static mobile homes for residential use, touring caravans and one number storage container.

Bearing in mind the condition it should have alleged the breach of condition but, it had not, and the inspector, on appeal, limited themself to considering whether adding an additional residential caravan did or did not amount to a material change of use.

The court ruled that a caravan site with four caravans rather than two caravans upon it still has the character of a caravan site. That had been the very reason for the imposition of conditions relating to the numbers of caravans such as were imposed in the 2007 permission.

Had it been desired to rely on the breach of condition it should have been raised in the enforcement notice to satisfy Section 173 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

The inspector had erroneously concluded that there had been a material change in the nature of the mixed use on the site, on the sole basis that the additional caravan amounted to a “doubling of the number of caravans”.

However this was wrong. “Mere intensification” alone could not amount to a material change of use unless it materially changed the definable character of the use of the land i.e. of the mixed equestrian and caravan site use that had been authorised by the 2007 planning permission.

In summary the Court of Appeal concluded that the inspector had applied the wrong test, namely a mere “intensification” test, and that therefore the appeal should be allowed.

This blog has been posted out of general interest. It does not remove the need to get bespoke legal advice in individual cases.