DC Casebook: Agricultural development - Barn works held to need permission

In upholding an enforcement notice directed against alterations and extensions to two barns in the Essex green belt, an inspector has concluded that a new building requiring planning permission has been created.

The appellant claimed that the main framework, roof and floor remained unaltered and the notice should be corrected to refer to cladding and enclosure of two-open sided barns with infilling of a 139m2 gap between them. He argued that the works amounted to the improvement and maintenance of the two structures without altering their external appearance and did not involve development by virtue of section 55(2)(a)(ii) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

The inspector examined the totality of the works. In enclosing the gap, she reasoned, the appellant's aim had been to create a single building. This involved a new roof covering and other works which included new cladding. In her opinion, the structure as a whole amounted to a new building and went well beyond repair and improvement of the original barns.

Since the development had been completed within four years of the council's decision to issue an enforcement notice, she held that it was not immune from action even though the two original buildings were lawful. Although the original structures could not have been subject to enforcement, she decided that the four-year period began afresh when the new development was substantially completed in 2007.

On the planning merits, the appellants pointed to a wide range of very special circumstances including the site's location in a farmyard, the potential to remove a log cabin and the need to diversify the farm enterprise and sustain the rural economy by allowing the employment use to remain. While finding all of these material considerations, the inspector decided that they did not amount to the very special circumstances required to retain the building, given its impact on the area's openness.

The log cabin was small compared to the new barn and its removal would not amount to a significant benefit, she ruled. Upholding the notice would mean that the existing tenant had to vacate the premises and this justified extending the period of compliance to 12 months, she conceded. She accepted the council's argument that the entire building should be removed, concluding that the original structures had been irrevocably altered and removal of the cladding and roof would not remedy the breach of control.

Inspector: Wendy McKay; Inquiry


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