I was wondering if someone might be able to help clarify what the planning regulations are with regards to citing a caravan on agricultural land in an AONB. Here is the situation we face. Our neighbour has dumped an old caravan in his field which is 10m from our boundary where our back garden is. The caravan also sits right alongside a public footpath and is in fairly poor state. The roof is not water tight, there is no door and some of the windows are smashed in – the caravan has a whole looks shabby and not something you could live in. We have never seen the neighbour use the caravan and to be honest it’s a real blot on the landscape and we have even had walkers complaining to us about the caravan being dumped so close to a public footpath (assuming that we were the owners of the caravan). So, we approached the local council to see if there was anything they could do to get the owner to locate it somewhere else.
This is the reply we received:
In answer to your query, the information that you have quoted is policy relating to agricultural development and it would therefore apply to all agricultural development, which requires a formal submission to this Authority (either a planning application or an Agricultural Determination). It would constitute a very strong material consideration when determining such a submission.
However, the issue with the caravan is that there is a prior consideration to be made before any such policy considerations can apply, and that is whether the caravan constitutes the carrying out of any form of development at all in the first instance. If it does, then the policy considerations you have quoted come into play straight away and some form of formal submission to the Local Planning Authority is required. However, if it doesn’t then it cannot be legally controlled under the planning legislation as this legislation can only control development.
With regard to caravans and the question of when they do or don’t actually constitute development, there is a Court of Appeal judgement interpreting the law on this which I referred to in my e-mail to you dated 28/9/15. This judgement makes it clear that all caravans must be treated as changes of use of land under the planning legislation, because they are mobile units and therefore cannot constitute a permanent structure or building operation. It goes on to state that as a change of use, planning permission would be required for the stationing of a caravan on land for any purpose that is different to the already permitted use of the land. However, if the use of the caravan is the same as the use of the land, or its use is ancillary or incidental to the use of the land, then the caravan cannot constitute development. This is because there has in law been no building operations carried out and no material change of use of the land (these being the only things that constitute “development” as defined I the Town & Country Planning Act 1990 as amended).
The case that was being heard by the Court of Appeal that resulted in this judgement was one relating to the stationing of a caravan on agricultural land located within a formally designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and that was being used for agricultural storage and as an area for the farmer to have a tea break in. The judgement made it clear that the land was agricultural and the use of the caravan was agricultural and therefore no development had taken place. Issues such as the protected nature of the area and the visual impact of the caravan had no bearing on this, as these were all material planning considerations whereas the caravan did not constitute development in the first instance.
This is very much the position with regard to Mr X’s caravan. It is established that the land in question is agricultural and that the caravan is a caravan as defined by the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 (as amended). My visit revealed that it is being used in connection with agricultural activities on the land, and from what I can see that was also what Mr Y appeared to suggest after his visit. Consequently, it would not appear to constitute development, and as a result issues such as its visual impact on the surrounding area cannot be taken into consideration as it falls outside of the remit of planning control.
I hope that the above clarifies the planning position and considerations in respect of this matter.
My question is – is there anything else we can do (from a planning / environmental perspective) to try and get the caravan moved?
Thanks in advance.