Friday, 27 May 2011

Another curtilage query

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).

As you will see from the note on the top bar entitled “Getting in touch”, you cannot communicate with me personally by posting a comment on a specific item in the blog, because I will have no means of knowing what your email address is, even if you include it when posting your comment. The only way of establishing contact is for you to send a separate email direct to me. Of course, I cannot give detailed advice without formal instructions, and that advice will have to be paid for on the usual professional basis, but I do respond politely to bona fide emails, even if only briefly.

An anonymous reader recently tried to seek my advice by leaving a comment on a piece I wrote a short time ago on “curtilage confusion”. It was clear from that query that the confusion continues, so I will try to explain the point again.

Without going into the precise facts of the case which was put to me, the questioner was concerned about threatened enforcement action in respect of the stationing of a ‘mobile home’ on their property which is in fact used solely for storage in connection with domestic stables on the property accommodating the owners’ own recreational horses. Both the planning officer and the questioner seem to be exercised over the question as to whether the stables, and the area immediately next to the stables where the mobile home is stationed, are or are not within the domestic curtilage of the house.

This, with due respect to all concerned, is irrelevant. In fact, in the case in question, it does not really matter whether the stables are within the same planning unit as the house, although from the details provided it appears that they are, being part of an 11-acre site, comprising the house, gardens and other land, stables, other outbuildings and hardstandings (etc.)

Even if the stables were not part of the same planning unit as the house, the stationing of the mobile home on the same planning unit as the stables purely for storage purposes in connection with the use of the stables would not amount to a material change of use of the land on which the mobile home is stationed. It is obvious that this is a purely ancillary use in connection with the use of the stables. There is clear authority for this proposition. The case I have in mind is Wealden DC -v- SSE ([1988] JPL 268). That case was concerned with storage for agricultural purposes, but the principle holds good for ancillary storage for any purpose. On the other hand, if the stables are not within the same planning unit as the house, and the mobile home were to be used as residential accommodation, then that would amount to a material change of use in respect of that (non-domestic) planning unit.

In the present case I think we can assume that the mobile home is stationed within the same planning unit as the house. If a mobile home or caravan is stationed anywhere within a planning unit comprising a single private dwellinghouse and the land enjoyed with it for domestic purposes, it can be used for any ancillary (and not merely ‘incidental’) purpose in connection with the residential use of that planning unit, e.g. to provide additional bedroom space or other accommodation, provided that this did not amount to use as a separate dwelling.

This is a point which planning officers just don’t seem to be able to get their heads around. The use of any existing buildings and the use of any part of the land occupied together with a single private dwellinghouse for any purpose which forms part of the domestic use of that planning unit within Use Class C3 is perfectly lawful, irrespective of whether the particular part of the planning unit in question falls within the more narrowly defined ‘curtilage’ of the house. Defining the curtilage is only relevant to deciding whether or not the permitted development rights granted by Part 1 of the Second Schedule to the GPDO allow the erection of a new outbuilding or extension in that precise location.

If the questioner recognises their property from the description given above and would like my further professional help on the matter, perhaps they would care to email me. It may take a reasonably firm letter from me to the planning officer to resolve the matter, but I am in no doubt that we can see the planning officer off in this case in fairly short order.



  1. An anonymous reader posted a comment which, I would respectfully suggest, needed tidying up slightly, but I thought it worthy of publication after some light editing.

    ‘Anonymous’ wrote: “I do wish LPA officers would grasp this. A client has just successfully defended an enforcement notice appeal on these very principles of planning unit, curtilage and ancillary use. The LPA alleged a change of use from curtilage (to something they were never able to define) when, at best, all they could allege was mixed use as residential and non-ancillary storage (and a building). The inspector concluded that the planning unit was the entire land and therefore ancillary rights applied, then also concluded that the curtilage was on the facts of the case the entire unit and so PD rights applied to the building which the EN alleged as operational development.

    This approach was effectively put to the LPA nearly two years earlier and they simply refused to acknowledge the principles. Their attitude post-appeal seems to be – ‘Well some you win, some you lose’ !!”

  2. I am having a similar argument with my local planners over curtilage, planning unit, lawful use and permitted development.
    The planners don't seem to understand their own rules and are trying to force me into applying for lawful use, when through their own application process have already granted that use as lawful. Very poor for the layman.

  3. Dear Sir, searching google I came across your blog 27 May 2011 "another curtilage query" and drew particular interest with regard to caravans within the curtilage (or planning unit) of a dwellinghouse for a use as ancillary accommodation. I am at my wits end with my local planning department who insist that because the caravan is fitted out as a "separate unit of accommodation" it is neither ancillary or incidental to our dwellinghouse and requires planning permission, even though it is occupied by my daughter, her husband and their 3year old son (my grandson).

    The caravan is a twin unit mobile home located within our generous sized garden but still only 23 metres away, it is connected to all the mains utility services of our house and directly to our mains sewage, it is not fixed and remains capable of being transpoted once the small external decking is removed and the timber draught skirt taken away.

    We share the existing access and parking at the property and to all intents and purposes live together as a family. True we both occasionally eat separately but frequently eat together as a family, particularly breakfast where my daughter and her mother prepare it together.

    My son-in-law takes care of all the domestic chores around the garden and diy/handyman jobs around the house, we have no mortgage and my son in law and daughter pay for all our utility bills and we are all registered at this address with the Councils electoral office.

    My wife and I are retired and my wife is registered disabled, having them live with us is a godsend and we are dependent on them for the upkeep of our property and mobility as I no longer wish to drive myself unless I absoltely must which is quite infrequent thanks to them.

    The planning officer is being very negative and questioned whether my daughter was a registered carer (she is not) and added that even if she was the mobile home is not incidental to the enjoyment of the dwellinghouse - I argued that it was very much incidental to our enjoyment and he should go and take a run and jump!! we are told that we must apply for planning permission but he won't commit to whether his "senior officer" will approve our application, we are threatened with a planning contravention order if we refuse to submit for retrospective planning.

    I am quite angry and refuse to be bullied in this manner especially when advice obtained from the mobile home company said planning permission is not normally required providing the caravan is occupied by a family member and we do not divide up our garden to create a separate plot. Perhaps through your column you could clarify your earlier thoughts on the matter? Thank you

  4. I have published the above comment as an example of the sort of queries that so frequently arise. However, I cannot possibly answer this in the form of a comment. As stated elsewhere in this blog (in two or three places in fact), please email me if you require specific advice. There may well be an answer to the query that has been raised, but it would be dependent on the caravan truly being occupied as purely ancillary accommodation and not as a separate dwelling. It does not need to be within the curtilage, so long as it is in the same planning unit. I would need more information in order to be able to give a proper answer, and it would have to be dealt with on the usual fee-paying basis.

  5. The series of posts on curtilage and planning unit is most illuminating.

    We recently applied for planning permission to resite and enlarge our garage within our 1.1 acre plot.

    The whole plot "together with the dwelling house thereon" was sold as a single lot in a sale in the early 1940's whereby a local estate was broken up to pay death duties and has been in private domestic use ever since. It would seeem difficult to argue that the whole plot is anything other than a single planning unit.

    In their objections the planners referred to the fact that the site is in a green belt and that part of the building would extend beyond what they considered to be the residential curtilage.

    If I understand your blog correctly, the extent of the planning unit and not the extent of the residential curtilage delimits the confines of the area in which permission may be granted to build, and that this is the case green belt or no. It seems an irrelevancy as we are not proposing the exercise of permitted development rights but have sought full permission.

    Whilst this seems the obvious conclusion from your many and helpful posts on the topic of curtilage, I wonder if this point is worth addressing head on in your blog.

  6. If an outbuilding such as a garage is required for purposes incidental to the enjoyment of a dwellinghouse as such, it will be permitted development under Part 1, Class E of the second schedule to the GPDO, provided it complies with the various limitations and conditions (as regards it position in relation to the house, its height, and so on) set out in that part of the Order.

    If the proposed garage will be located outside the curtilage (even though it may be within the same planning unit as the house) it will require planning permission. It cannot automatically be assume that this part of the planning unit will necessarily be treated as ‘previously developed land’ for the purpose of applying the relevant planning policies. A decision as to whether or not planning permission should be granted will be a matter for judgment on its planning merits taking into account all the relevant planning policies, including Green Belt policies.