Q: Should the fee for an application for full planning permission for ten static caravans on agricultural land be £220 for change of use or £2,200 on the basis of £220 for each residential unit?
A: The answer depends on whether the caravans involve operational development. If they fall within the statutory definition of a caravan given in the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960, as supplemented by section 13 of the Caravan Sites Act 1968, the application should be assessed as a change of use of the land on which the caravans are to be sited.
Subject to certain exceptions, the definition of a caravan includes "any structure designed or adapted for human habitation that is capable of being moved from one place to another, whether by being towed or by being transported on a motor vehicle or trailer, and any other motor vehicle so designed or adapted". Twin units comprising not more than two sections built or designed to be assembled on site by means of bolts, clamps or other devices and not exceeding 60 feet in length, 20 feet in width and 10 feet in height are also included.
Thus any structure falling outside these transportability and dimensional criteria or having a sufficient degree of permanence, for example through adaptations to physically attach it to the ground or to connect it to main services, will involve operational development. Such units are normally found at a static caravan site and will be classed as dwellinghouses.
The application fee should be calculated accordingly.
Q: A county council has identified a site that it owns for a building for adults with learning difficulties, although there seem to be few planning reasons for its choice and it appears to be contrary to an emerging local plan. Does the council need express permission for development on land within its ownership?
A: Express permission is required for the proposed development regardless of whether it is on council-owned land. Under regulation 3 of the Town and Country Planning General Regulations 1992, a local authority will generally apply to itself to develop land under its control, in the same manner as other applications, although this cannot be determined by any member or officer responsible for managing any land or buildings to which the application relates.
However, regulation 4 stipulates that where an authority has an interest in the land but does not propose to carry out the development itself and, were it not for that interest, the application would be determined by another body, it must be made to the responsible development control authority.
In this case, this would be the district council.
Where a planning authority proposes to grant permission for the development of local authority land that does not accord with one or more provisions of the development plan, it is required to notify the secretary of state of the application under the Town and Country Planning Directions 1999.
The regulations are explained in Circular 19/92.
Q: Unless prevented by a planning condition, flat-roofed areas associated with a dwellinghouse can be used for any purpose by the occupier, including sitting out. My client's property is directly overlooked by such a roof and the use causes a real problem with intrusion into privacy. However, the planning authority states that it is powerless to act. The parapet walls surrounding the roof are not compliant with the building regulations and the roof is not safe to use. Are you aware of any other legislation that can stop the use of the roof?
A: Sitting out or placing planters on a flat roof does not constitute development.
In addition, in accordance with the judgement in London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames v Secretary of State for the Environment and Neale (1991), parapet walls fall to be considered against class B, part 1, schedule 2 of the General Permitted Development Order 1995 and are unlikely to require an express grant of permission. The planning authority's approach therefore appears correct.
However, it is possible that any unauthorised openings or replacement windows that have been inserted to facilitate the use of the roof could be considered to have a material effect on the external appearance of the dwelling and would thus be deemed to require permission. Apart from any breach of the building regulations, I doubt whether redress is available under human rights, antisocial behaviour or other legislation. Readers' views are invited.
Q: My client has built an extension that is not in accordance with a planning permission. A subsequent application to retain the extension was refused and an appeal dismissed. A revised application to retain the building in a modified form through partial demolition and making good was recently approved. I expected the permission to include a condition requiring the modification works to be carried out within a prescribed period, but instead there is only the standard time limit requiring the development to be commenced within five years. Can the planning authority now legitimately issue an enforcement notice in relation to the unlawful element of the works, as to do so would effectively nullify the value of the five years given to commence the work by the condition? If not, does this mean that my client can delay commencement of the works and then claim immunity under the four-year rule?
A: The new permission does not authorise the unlawful element or specify a deadline for its removal. The five-year time limit merely defines the life of the permission for the revised proposal. Consequently, the continued retention of the unlawful element remains unauthorised and would be in breach of both the original and the subsequent permission. I do not think that the time limit fetters the planning authority from serving an enforcement notice requiring works to be carried out to ensure that the extension is demolished or modified.