Canterbury faces costs over caravan challenge

Canterbury City Council faces having to pay the government's legal costs after losing a High Court challenge to a decision that allowed residential use of a caravan on the site of a former pub in Chartham.

The council had sought to appeal a planning inspector’s decision overturning the enforcement notice it issued against Charles Summerfield, of Phyllis Farm, Selling Road, Old Wives Lees, Kent, in respect of his site adjacent to the former Royal Oak pub on Hatch Lane, Chartham.

Summerfield bought the land, which previously formed part of the pub, in 2004 as well as other land that included a decades-old planning permission for three caravans for seasonal residential use.
 
However, the council issued an enforcement notice in September 2010 alleging an unlawful change of use of the former pub land for residential use of a caravan, and demanding Summerfield put a stop to it within three months.
 
He appealed, and the inspector quashed the notice, finding that there had been intermittent residential use of a caravan on the land since the 1960s. As a result, he found that it was too late for the council to take enforcement action against it.
 
Yesterday, the council sought to persuade deputy judge John Bowers QC to quash the inspector’s decision and order communities secretary Eric Pickles to have the matter reconsidered.
 
It claimed that use of the caravan was abandoned between 2001, when the pub closed, and 2004, when Summerfield bought the land. It argued that the caravan fell into disrepair, and became vandalised and derelict. As a result, it claimed that Summerfield’s use of the caravan was not a resumption of an existing use of the site, but a new use, which required planning permission, and that the inspector’s decision to the contrary was "perverse".
 
However the judge rejected the council’s challenge. "This is an appeal that does not have any realistic prospect of success," he said.
 
He ordered the council to pay the government’s legal costs of defending the decision, to be assessed later if not agreed.

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