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Archive for May, 2011

Something nasty not in the woodshed but in the barn!

No enforcement action can be taken for breach of planning control in respect of a change of use of any building to a single dwelling house after four years from the breach (s171B (2) Town and Country Planning Act 1990).  The section seemed clear enough to Mr Beesley when he constructed a building, which externally appeared to be a hay barn for which he obtained planning permission in 2001, but internally was a fully fitted-out dwelling house built and in to which he moved in 2002.  In 2006 he made an application for a certificate of lawfulness for use of the building as a dwelling house which internally at least, was exactly what it was.

The local planning authority refused the certificate.  Mr Beesley obtained one on appeal.  This was upheld by the Court of Appeal.  The Council appealed again claiming there had been no change of use (the building never having been used for its permitted use) and second, even if it had been, public policy would not allow Mr Beesley to profit from his own wrong.

The Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal.  It held that the building was not the permitted barn but a dwelling.  There had, therefore, been no change of use within the meaning of the 1990 Act.  In these circumstances, the Court did not need to address the Council’s second issue but due to its importance, did so.  It found that positive and deliberate misleading statements which prevent discovery of the unlawful use would frustrate the policy of the Act and would damage the public’s confidence in planning law.  (Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and another v Welwyn Hatfield BC [2011] UKSC 15.)

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