DC Casebook: Gypsies and Travellers - Day room in green belt secures reprieve

An enforcement notice requiring removal of a building in the Essex green belt has been quashed after an inspector agreed that it was not being used as a dwellinghouse and the appellant had shown very special circumstances for retaining it.

The site formed part of a well-established Gypsy caravan park and contained a building with four rooms on the ground floor and a loft above. The appellant claimed that the enforcement notice was incorrect in alleging that the building was used as a dwellinghouse, asserting that it provided a day room for his extended family. Although one room was used as a lounge and dining room, he pointed out that the structure contained no bedrooms and only one bathroom, accessed via a storage area.

The inspector agreed that the building was being used as a day room and amenity block. He accepted that the ground floor could easily be adapted to a dwellinghouse and saw why the council had used this description. However, he observed that the judgement in Swale Borough Council v First Secretary of State and Lee [2005] required an assessment of whether it was actually being put to residential use rather than its availability or suitability for such. Given the absence of permanent residential occupation, he corrected the notice.

In assessing whether the structure should be retained, he decided that the harm was mainly limited to its inappropriate nature in the green belt. He rejected the appellant's claim that it did not involve inappropriate development. While accepting that outbuildings could be erected in the curtilages of green belt homes, he found that this argument carried little weight because the appeal building did not fall within such a curtilage.

He decided that very special circumstances justified the building's retention. Its use as a day room met the appellant and his family's needs on a large plot with no limit on the number of caravans and lying within a much larger traveller site, he found. In allowing the appeal, he set a condition restricting its use to a day room in connection with the plot's occupation as a Gypsy caravan site.

DCS Number 100-058-042

Inspector Felix Bourne; Inquiry

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