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Saying what you mean is not always the same as meaning what you say The meaning of words is especially important when dealing with planning matters Andy Rogers reiterates I have written several times before to suggest that the meaning of words is especially important when dealing with planning matters (as distinct from the importance of the visual when dealing with design). Resisting the temptation to refer yet again to Humpty Dumpty’s habit of making words mean whatever he fancies, I have gathered together some recent appeal and court decisions that might cast light on the (sometimes surprising) meanings that the planning system throws up from time to time. When is a village not a village? This was discussed by an appeal inspector when determining whether an infill site could be developed in Abbots Langley, which is located in the green belt. Paragraph 89 of the NPPF, which deals with exceptions for building in the green belt, allows “limited infilling in villages”. The council claimed that Abbots Langley is too large to be classified as a village and is a small town*. But the appeal was won, partly because the inspector ruled that - being surrounded by countryside - the settlement looked and felt like a village; and partly because the council itself described it as a village on its own website. [Note when dealing with appeals - always consider the possibility that a council has misdirected itself.] Which prompts me to ask: What constitutes “limited” infilling? (dictionary definition: within limits, narrow, restricted). The inspector in that case noted that although there is no specific guidance on the limits that should be used, the everyday use of the word applied and so three houses on an infill site was sufficiently restricted to be allowed as “limited”. When does a basement affect the open character of the green belt?


Planning in London

Here the current position is confused. An appeal inspector in Worcestershire considered that a proposed basement would result in a house that was so much larger than the original (already extended) dwelling as to be in conflict with the fundamental aim of green belt policy “to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open”. But an inspector dealing with a similar appeal in northwest London came to the opposite conclusion as the extension would neither have a material effect on the external appearance of the building nor on its visual bulk in the green belt.** When is a nursery school not a school? My dictionary defines a nursery school as “a school for very young children between the ages of two and five”. But an inspector considering a permitted development application for a nursery school extension disagreed, deciding that the definition of “school” should not include registered nurseries, where the main use was childcare. Class M.1.(g)(i) of the General Permitted Development Order only applies when existing buildings are predominantly used for education. But as there is no clear definition of the term education, the inspector ruled that a nursery school does not provide it. Are children residents? Here the appellant argued that his property in Ealing should be considered as a small house in multiple occupation (HMO) because there were only six adults living there, although some had children. The High Court ruled that the definition of residents should be the same under the

A colourful Wendy House

…this song is considered a perfect gem, And as to the meaning, it’s what you please.– C S Calverley, 1872

Use Classes Order 1987 as for the Housing Act 2010 so that children (and presumably babies) count as persons forming part of a household and therefore are defined as residents. When is a hay store not an agricultural use? The answer is when it is used for feeding horses that are kept for leisure and hobby purposes - not for breeding or grazing. The appeal turned on whether the exclusion of agricultural or forestry buildings on brownfield land in the green belt (which cannot be redeveloped under exceptions allowed in the NPPF) should be extended to a hay store and tack room. The inspector decided they could be redeveloped as they were not agricultural or forestry buildings. When is an office not an office? According to a south coast council, when it’s used for administration by a local authority. A change of use to residential using permitted development rights (Class O of Part 3 to Schedule 2 of the GPDO) was proposed for an office block in Weymouth formerly occupied as council offices. A certificate of proposed lawful use was refused on the grounds that the block had multiple other uses (and based on a previous case concerning the old County Hall in London), but this was rejected by the inspector as the main use was clearly as offices. When is a tree not a tree? The answer is when it’s a shrub or a seedling. This is the subject of extensive legal cases and was comprehensively covered by Martin Goodall in his blog of 21 December 2015. In summary, a sapling is a young tree but a seedling is only potentially a tree and therefore doesn’t count. The cases mostly concern tree preservation orders (TPOs) but the relevant legislation fails to define “tree”. Conversely, a tree in a conservation area is clearly defined and only protected if its trunk is at least 75mm in diameter.

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PLANNING IN LONDON 105 April 2018  


PLANNING IN LONDON 105 April 2018