Q & A 24.3/10
My national park authority takes the view that motorhomes are caravans for the purposes of planning control. However, land that is subject to an extant enforcement notice preventing its use as a touring caravan site has been extensively used by motorhomes for the past two years. The operator has displayed a notice at the site entrance saying "only motorhomes with tents for sleeping". The site owner’s agents argue that if the motorhomes are used merely for transport, and their occupiers use the tents for human habitation, they cannot be regarded as caravans. We wish to prosecute the site owner for breach of the enforcement notice. What is your advice?
In Backer v Secretary of State for the Environment and Wealden District Council , it was established that a motorhome falls within the definition of a caravan in the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 and the Caravan Sites Act 1968 as amended. The difficulty in this case lies in correctly identifying the nature of the breach. If the motorhomes are not used for human habitation but are merely stationed on the land, it may be that what has occurred merely amounts to their unauthorised parking. Irrespective of any conclusion on that issue, a material change of use to a camping site will have taken place. While these activities may amount to a breach of planning control, it is debatable whether they contravene the existing notice because that relates to use of the land as a touring caravan site. To be certain of a successful outcome, I would consider serving a temporary stop notice and a new enforcement notice attacking the camping use. Since tents are clearly critical to the continuation of the existing activities, any doubt over the lawfulness of the use of the motorhomes will be immaterial.
My authority is currently dealing with an application for a Lawful Development Certificate for a use for the stationing of 30 static caravans, replacing 30 touring caravans. The applicant is claiming that the proposed statics would still fall under the definition of a caravan under the Caravan Sites Act 1968. However, the proposed units would be attached to the ground and probably have plumbing and electricity connections. Furthermore, some lawful statics on another part of the site have items such as decking and steps attached to them. All this would suggest operational development rather than a change of use. What is your view on this matter? IA.
If the static caravans proposed have sufficient characteristics of permanency to be considered building operations, then there is no doubt that permission would be required for them. Cases where this, often difficult, exercise has been conducted are to be found in Development Control Practice 4.3531.
If the units are found to be sufficiently mobile not to be deemed building operations, it is then necessary to rationalize whether there has been a material change of use from a touring caravan site to a site for holiday static caravans. It is often argued, as does your applicant, that there will be no material difference in planning terms as both types of caravan fall within the compass of the Caravan Sites Act 1968 definition. However, some have averred quite cogently that the 1968 Act cannot pre-empt a planning judgment being made under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 that substantially bulkier units located permanently on site would, as a matter of fact and degree, materially change the character of the land. This was the finding of an inspector in a 2007 case from Kent (DCS Number 100-049-388). GH.