Appeal Court rejects bid to halt Kent council's residential conversion enforcement action

The Court of Appeal has upheld a council's enforcement action against the illegal development of three new residential buildings in the countryside, refuting the owner's claim that the authority's demand for the complete demolition of the structures was 'over-enforcement'.

London's Royal Courts of Justice
London's Royal Courts of Justice

The case concerned three former chicken sheds at Bekesebourne Lane, Canterbury, Kent which had planning permission for use as offices.

The landowner, Graham Oates, did not require consent to change their use again to residential, which is allowed under permitted development. However, he did not have permission to carry out any operational development on the site, the Appeal Court judgement says.

Substantial works were, however, carried out and Canterbury City Council issued the enforcement notice in August 2016 on the basis that the end result was three new buildings which had been constructed without planning consent.

The landowner’s challenge to the notice was rejected by a planning inspector, whose decision was last year upheld by a High Court judge.

In appealing against the latter ruling, Oates argued that the council’s insistence on complete demolition went beyond what was required to correct the breach of planning control.

The Appeal Court judgement said his lawyers argued that it was a case of "over-enforcement" by the council, in that the notice interfered with his established right to retain and use those parts of the original buildings that remained on the site.

In rejecting the appeal, however, the Appeal Court found that an original building need not be demolished in order for it to become a new building.

The extent of the works carried out meant that the buildings that were previously on the site had "ceased to exist", and had been replaced by new ones.

Although partly composed of what was left of the original buildings, the buildings against which enforcement action was taken were created unlawfully, the court ruled.

Oates v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Case Number: C1/2017/3197

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