A recent planning case in the Court of Appeal produced what the judge described as a ‘surprising outcome’. 

Alan Beesley had been granted planning permission by Welwyn Hatfield Council to build a barn on green belt land, for agricultural use only. The Council granted his request on the basis that his application stated that the building was to be used only for storing hay and would not require sewage disposal. In fact, Mr Beesley never used the building as a barn but built a three-bedroom single-dwelling house inside the outer structure and connected the dwelling to the mains drainage system.

After four years of living in the ‘barn’, Mr Beesley applied, under Section 171B of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, for a certificate of lawfulness for existing use. Under current legislation, there is a four-year time limit for local planning authorities to enforce planning control in domestic dwellings cases.

The Court of Appeal ruled that although Mr Beesley had clearly intended to deceive the Council in order to build a domestic dwelling on green belt land, the case should not be treated any differently from one where planning permission had been obtained in good faith and there was a genuine alteration to the original plans during the course of building work.

As it stands, the law does not differentiate in any way between circumstances in which planning permission is obtained in good faith and those where the planning application is intended to deceive the planning authorities. Whilst acknowledging that its decision would appear ‘incomprehensible’ to decent, law-abiding citizens, the Court had to rule in Mr Beesley’s favour. It was for Parliament to amend the legislation should it see fit.

For advice on planning or any other property issues, contact Andrew Hunter.