Residential use of caravans held materially different from recreational use

Permanent residential use of 54 caravans at a farm in Dorset was refused as being unlawful on the grounds it would be a material change of use from the certified camping and caravanning one approved at the site for the same number of caravans over six months of the year.

The site had been granted lawful development certificates for use of each of two separate parts as caravanning and camping sites between Easter and the end of September each year, totalling up to 54 caravans over both areas. The appellant had argued that a caravan site was a caravan site and it did not matter how the caravans were occupied.

The inspector determined that the question was whether the use for human habitation i.e. "living in" which would be on a permanent or long-term basis was a materially different use from a recreational one which, in his view, consisted of a non-permanent occupation of the caravans, tents or motorhomes on the site when using the normal dictionary definitions of the terms. He referred in his deliberations to the Childs case R(oao John Childs v (1) FSS and (2) Test Valley BC [2005] where it was determined that the LDC had certified a specified number of caravans on the land which was the lawful use and an increase in the number could amount to a material change of use.

In the current appeal the LDCs certified that a specific type of activity, a recreational one, on the land was the lawful use. In the inspector’s view this change in the character and appearance of the use of the land including plot demarcation, introduction of roads, gardens and so on, and the traffic and people comings and goings that occurred as part and parcel of that use could and did amount to a material change of use for which a separate planning permission would be required.

Inspector: Doug Morden; Written representations

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