Dwelling abandonment claim rejected

A decision of a local planning authority in Kent to refuse a LDC seeking confirmation that the use of a dwelling had not been abandoned was held to be not well founded by an inspector who determined that the appellant had made attempts to keep the building in reasonable repair.

The appellant stated that the dwelling had been regularly used as a holiday home until 2003. It was subsequently damaged by a falling tree, vandalised and not re-occupied. Repairs were not undertaken for financial reasons and because the family wished to erect a replacement dwelling of a better standard. However, in 2011 some repairs to the roof were undertaken to make it wind- and watertight. A gable wall was re-rendered and some replacement windows installed. Internal floors and ceilings were also repaired.

The inspector noted that in 2004 the property was declared empty for council tax purposes but this did not mean that the appellant had deliberately abandoned the use. Cessation of the use did not necessarily equate to abandonment, the inspector ruled, and while it had not been used for some time the level of dereliction had not been so great as to preclude its repair and eventual re-occupation. On this basis it retained its lawful use as a dwellinghouse.

In so finding she refused to make an award of costs in favour of the appellant, concluding that the council did not have to demonstrate that the use was not lawful only to assess whether the information provided by the appellant was sufficiently precise and unambiguous. While she had reached a different conclusion the council had had reasonable grounds for forming a different view based on established planning law.

Inspector Katie Peerless; Written representations


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