Rural settlement housing Q & A DCP Section 9.1

This section is concerned with housing developments of less than 10 units proposed in or adjacent to established rural settlements. A large and increasing number of appeals are generated in this area of control, many arising because of differences of interpretation between local authorities and appellants as to precise boundaries of villages, even where settlement limits are defined in local plans. Small scale housing schemes, mostly single dwelling developments, which are clearly in the open countryside are considered in the next section (9.2), while more extensive residential developments proposed on the fringes of larger villages, normally those designated in structure or local plans as suitable for expansion, are dealt with at (7.1). Many of the general amenity and traffic considerations raised by housing in urban residential areas are also applicable to village schemes and so reference should also be made to chapter (8).

Q & A    9.1/10

I am looking for examples of site where log cabins/chalets have been built in a green belt area.

It is only possible for me to identify cases where such developments have been before the planning appeals system. I imagine you are seeking to establish whether this particular form of construction has helped overcome conventional policy objections on green belt grounds. However, a quick scan of the COMPASS database does not suggest that appellants have had much success on this point.

Response

I have recently been involved in obtaining approval for a log cabin in the Warwickshire green belt. My client, a farrier, had been living in a mobile home for which I obtained a lawful development certificate, and I then applied for this to be replaced with a log cabin. This cabin was in kit form taking 3-7 days to erect and was considered to be a permanent dwelling. Officers recommended refusal but my client lobbied members and received permission on a narrow split vote. Here the log cabin did not make any difference to the principle of a new green belt dwelling, but it may have clinched it with the politicians!

I know that ‘previously-developed land’ is defined in PPG3 but are you aware of any definition for a ‘brownfield site’ in planning law and is there any material difference between the two?

I think the only instance where the term ‘brownfield site’ has been defined as such is in the Thames Gateway Planning Framework Regional Planning Guidance (RPG), issued in 1994 before the publication of PPG3. Annex 3 of the RPG defines a brownfield site as "not open countryside and often has accommodated previous industrial users". This is obviously far less comprehensive than the subsequent definition of ‘previously-developed land’ given in Annex C of PPG3. In other recent guidance and ministerial pronouncements the term ‘brownfield’ is often used as a synonym for ‘previously-developed land’ and sometimes appears in parenthesis after that term. There is therefore no practical difference between these expressions.

Response

With regard to the query on brownfield land, the glossary to Scottish Planning Policy SPP3 Planning for Housing defines this as "Land which has previously been developed.  The term may encompass vacant or derelict land; infill sites; land occupied by redundant or unused buildings; and developed land within the settlement boundary where further intensification of use is considered acceptable".

A planning authority advises me to apply for a certificate of lawfulness in respect of land with has the mainly rubble remains of a cottage on it, rather than seek permission for a replacement dwelling. I am told that the cottage finally collapsed in about 2000, having been unoccupied for some 3 or 4 years. However, as its records indicate that council tax was last levied in 1989, the authority considers that the residential use of the site has been abandoned. It also explains that policies in the development plan contain a presumption against new housing in the countryside regardless of any historical use. Original conveyances and deeds confirm the existence of a dwelling on the site from May 1913 until the latest Land Registry Certificate in April 2002. Would these negate the Councils’ opinion that the residential use of the land has been abandoned and, if not, should I be seeking permission for a replacement dwelling instead?

The courts have held that there are four factors to be taken into account when considering whether abandonment has occurred. These relate to the period of non-use, the physical condition of the property, any intervening use, and the owner’s intention. Where, as is the case here, a dwelling has deteriorated to such an extent that it requires major reconstruction, this is sufficient in itself to indicate abandonment. Thus from what you say, I see no merit in applying for a certificate of lawfulness in respect of the current use of the site as, regardless of the deeds in your possession, there is clearly no longer a building on site that is capable of being occupied residentially. Moreover, unless you are able to justify a new dwelling in connection with the proven needs of a rural-based occupation, such as agriculture or forestry, a planning application for this is likely to be refused.

Response

Regarding the response about the four tests to assess abandonment. While agreeing with most of the reply, the approach may have been too simplistic. In a recent case in Cornwall the deputy prime minister disagreed with his inspector and held that the owner's intentions carried equal weight with the physical condition and other tests. He determined that the residential use had not been abandoned despite the lack of physical evidence of the cottage. However, the decision was not challenged by the council because it had supported the applicants at the call-in inquiry.

My client, a former farmer who for economic reasons has sold his stock and now lets most of his land to another farmer, continues to live in a tied dwelling. But as he was "last employed" in agriculture, he complies with the occupancy condition.  He now wishes to convert the former barns and the remaining farmland to equine use.  Although likely to be acceptable, my client fears that this non-agricultural use would bring him in breach of the occupancy condition. The ‘other occupational dwelling’ provision in PPS7 seems to offer an alternative form of control but only if special justification for a dwelling is demonstrated. Is there any way my client might lawfully reside in his dwelling and still run the equine enterprise?

I do not share your apparently pessimistic view of this matter. If your client was last employed in agriculture and the circumstances that led to the disposal of his stock and most of his land are genuine, this establishes a fall-back position underpinning future proposals. The advice in Annex A to PPS7 on ‘other occupational dwellings’ relates to new dwellings, not existing ones. However, I think the solution might be to apply for the occupancy condition to be lifted, if it has outlived its usefulness, or to suggest to the authority as part of a development package including both the equine proposal and the existing dwelling that the condition be varied to relate to the new use. In any event, I think it would be harsh for the planning authority to take action against your client for any perceived breach of the condition.

I am dealing with an application for a large access to a residential property which is clearly intended to serve a future housing development to the rear. This new development is not yet applied for but is within a village settlement boundary. A similar access by a different owner was approved further down the road, and I believe the applicant has the same intention. Is there any way I can refuse the current application for the access on the basis that the council would prefer to see a more comprehensive form of development, rather than each small field being developed in a piecemeal form? ST.

I can only guess at the reasons why both of these applicants feel it necessary to pre-establish access points to future development in this way. However, if your authority wishes to ensure that a co-ordinated approach is adopted the best course of action would be to prepare a planning brief for the whole developable site. This will make it much easier to refuse any proposals which did not comply with the overall development pattern laid down, including access points and internal circulation. GH.

My authority has a number of Annex C sites in its UDP approved in June 2006. However, a school in the green belt has recently closed, and the council wishes to dispose. It has been suggested that paragraph C17 of PPG2 Green Belts anticipates this situation whereby a potential Annex C site comes along between a Unitary Development Plan and a Local Development Framework. This seems to suggest that provided the guidance in paragraphs C3 and C4 is followed then redevelopment for purposes other than education would not be inappropriate development. In addition paragraph C16 seems to me to suggest the possibility of a new school in the green belt when sites cannot be found in the urban area. Any thoughts? PH.

My reading of the guidance in PPG2 paragraph C17 seems to suggest that it only applies in the situation where it is proposed to infill or redevelop existing green belt education sites for similar uses. This guidance is written to follow from paragraph 16 which appears to be saying that the "expansion" of an existing green belt education site could be entertained where this need cannot be reasonably be catered for outside the green belt. In common with much in PPG2 this advice is not very clearly expressed, hence your question. Have any readers had experience of this situation? GH.   


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