Tuesday, 25 January 2011
If you have found this post by searching for “curtilage” on the internet, you may like to know that there has been a total of 7 posts on this topic in this blog – on 25 January 2011, 27 May 2011, 12 August 2011, 18 August 2011, 6 December 2011, 19 December 2011 and 2 January 2012. If you wish to display them all on the page together, just put “curtilage” into the search box at the top left-hand corner of this page (but NOT in the ‘Google’ or ‘Jeeves’ box above that).
In two separate cases recently, involving different authorities, I have had to deal with misunderstandings on the part of planning officers regarding the concept of a building’s ‘curtilage’. There seems to be a rather widespread ignorance of planning law in this regard.
The lawful use of a property (whatever it is) extends to the whole of the ‘planning unit’ (i.e. the unit of occupation, unless or until any part of it can be identified as being physically and functionally separate from the whole). With this one exception, the planning unit in the case of a single private dwellinghouse is undoubtedly the whole of the land occupied with the house, and the lawful use of the whole of that planning unit falls within Use Class C3 in the Use Classes Order (namely use as a single private dwellinghouse).
Where planning officers seem to get confused is in relation to the concept of the domestic ‘curtilage’. The first point which it is important to grasp is that the ‘curtilage’ (or the ‘residential curtilage’) of a property does not represent a use of land for planning purposes. You cannot change the use of land to use ‘as residential curtilage’. If land not forming part of the original planning unit is incorporated within that planning unit (for example, a house and the land enjoyed with it for domestic purposes), in other words if its use is changed from (say) agricultural use to domestic use, then that represents a material change of use of that land, but it makes no difference whether the area of land in question was incorporated in what can be described as the ‘residential curtilage’ of the house; what matters is whether it has been incorporated in the planning unit so as to change its use to domestic use.
The second point to bear in mind (as you may appreciate from what I have already written above) is that the ‘domestic curtilage’ of a house is not necessarily co-extensive with the planning unit. This particularly applies to large houses in the countryside, where the ‘curtilage’ may extend only to the cultivated garden, plus the forecourt immediately in front of the house, etc. However, other land within the planning unit which is not so directly related to the house may in fact fall outside the domestic curtilage. As I have pointed out above, this makes no difference in terms of the lawful use of the land. The only significance of the definition of the curtilage for planning purposes is that certain permitted development rights for operational development (outbuildings, extensions and certain other structures) apply within the curtilage of a single private dwellinghouse, but not to any land within the same planning unit which falls outside the curtilage.
Planning officers sometimes seem to get hung up with the definition of the ‘curtilage’ when considering questions of lawful use (as distinct from permitted development rights, which are an entirely separate issue), but I really must stress that this is of no relevance in relation to the lawful use of any part of the property. In the vast majority of cases, the whole of a domestic property will constitute a single planning unit, so that the lawful use of the whole of the property will be use as a single private dwellinghouse within Use Class C3 of the Use Classes Order, and this necessarily includes the whole of the land enjoyed with it for domestic purposes, whether it falls inside or outside the slightly narrower definition of ‘residential curtilage’.
© MARTIN H GOODALL