We are very pleased to hear that the Beckside Cabins appeal has been allowed and they no longer face the threat of demolition. In a victory for common sense, Inspector Dignan ruled that the enforcement notice is quashed and planning permission is granted for the cabins.
In a nutshell, the Inquiry considered the case as follows:
- Two holiday letting cabins at Beckside Farm on the shore of Ullswater, dating from the 1930’s and which had a Certificate of Lawful Use (pictured below);
- Due to their poor state of repair, the owners renovated them, believing they were undertaking permitted development (pictured below);
- The Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) took the view that the renovation was so extensive it went beyond renovation allowed as permitted development and crossed the line into ‘development’ under the Town & Country Planning Act;
- As in it’s view it was development which did not have planning consent, the LDNPA served an enforcement notice on the owners of the huts instructing their removal;
- The owners appealed the enforcement action, with the key grounds of appeal being that the renovation works did not amount to development, and that even if it was considered to be development, permission should be granted due to the absence of any adverse effect upon the area and the policy support for the redevelopment of existing buildings to support farm diversification.
The Inquiry sat for 2 days (see more on the Inquiry here). In his decision the Inspector concluded that the works did in fact amount to development due to their extensive nature and the minimal amount of the original huts left post-renovation.
In consideration of whether the development should be granted planning permission, key to the case was the differing view on the application of policy. The LDNPA took the view that policies regarding the redevelopment of existing buildings could not be relied upon as the Certificate of Lawful Use which applied to the original un-renovated huts was ‘lost’ when the renovation works took place (because in their view the original huts no longer existed and had effectively been replaced). Thus they claimed there should be a theoretical greenfield site against which the development of the renovated huts should be judged (regardless of the fact that at no point during the renovation had the site been an empty greenfield site). Of course, development on a greenfield site in this location would have very limited policy support.
However, the Inspector took the more realistic view: ‘The current buildings are new buildings, but the type of building operation which led to them was rebuilding, hence it seems logical that redevelopment was involved. I shall therefore deal with the planning merits in the context of the relevant reuse/redevelopment policies. When viewed in this way it is possible to assess the impact of the operation in a more practical and realistic context that reflects the history of the site. It avoids the artifice of the comparison of the existing buildings with a notionally empty site.’
Landscape evidence regarding the effect of the works on the external appearance of the huts played a key role in allowing the Inspector to conclude the development was acceptable: ‘It is true that the appearance of the buildings has changed’ …However ‘From normal vantage points, such as passing near the lake shore or walking the local public footpaths, I consider it very unlikely that the textural differences would be noticeable.’
And he concluded: ‘that the external appearance of the buildings is not materially different to the original buildings means that no harm to the landscape character of the area arises from the physical act of rebuilding’.
And on the final point of the LDNPA regarding the alleged harm to the tranquility of the area, the Inspector again agreed with our case and concluded ‘Given the limited capacity of the accommodation, essentially based on catering for a notional 2 adult 2 children family, I cannot see that the level of activity, in what is a very secluded site, is likely to be noticeable in the wider area.’ And he went on: ‘Further, whilst the original accommodation was basic, I have no doubt that if made weather-tight and marketed in the same way it could well attract a year-round clientele, but with the potential to accommodate higher numbers.’
All in all a very interesting case and a good decision.