Planning Guide for Garden Buildings
We offer a turnkey service from concept to completion. We specialize in Lawful Development certificates for 'Mobile Homes' in Gardens or Farmland. All of our twin units fit within the regulations that apply to mobile homes. These regulations considerably reduce the Red Tape in building consents, making the whole process more simple and straightforward.
'Mobile Homes' in Gardens - an Overview
Caravans, including mobile homes up to 65x22ft, can be sited in the direct garden of a house without planning permission if they are used by members of the household as additional living space not as independent accommodation.
A mobile home can be used in a garden without planning but you will need to justify how the use of the caravan supports the use of the house and how it will not become a separate or independent dwelling. For example the people who sleep and wash in the mobile home will use the cooking facilities of the main house. The structure must also be located in the actual garden, not surrounding land.
Two Citations for Explanation
These two citations give a clear, general explanation of the Law. A caravan can be used in a garden for extra living accommodation without the need for planning approval but a caravan used as a separate residence may not.
Communities and Local Government Circular 01/94. Paragraph 29
“A caravan within the curtilage of a dwelling house may have a number of ancillary uses for which planning permission would not be required. For example, it could be used for additional living accommodation, provided that it remained part of the same planning unit as the dwelling house and the unit remained in single family occupation.”
Office of the Deputy Prime Minister’s ‘Planning Guide for Householders’
“Planning permission is needed if you want to divide off part of your house for use as a separate home (for example, a self- contained flat or bed-sit) or use a building or caravan in your garden as a separate residence for someone else.”
A 'mobile home' can be used in a garden without planning but you will need to justify how its use supports the use of the house, and how it will not become a separate or independent dwelling. For example, the people who sleep and wash in the mobile home will use the cooking facilities of the main house. The structure must also be located in the actual garden, not surrounding land.
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Overview of the Law - 'Mobile Homes' and 'Caravans' in Gardens
A caravan, be it a touring or static caravan or a large twin-size mobile home, is regarded as an article of movable personal property known as a ‘chattel’ and there is no public law preventing one being kept in someone’s garden, but there are Laws that regulate the ‘Use’ of land.
The siting of a caravan within the garden of a property does not require express consent provided a ‘material change of use’ has not occurred. Gardens are used for the enjoyment of the main dwelling house. If a caravan is parked in a drive or sited in a garden and used by members of the household in connection to the enjoyment of the house or as extra accommodation for visiting guests, provided the occupants continue to use the facilities of the house, then the siting of the caravan has not changed the ‘use’ of the land. However, if for example a caravan is sited in a garden and used as business premises, separately rented or used as a primary independent dwelling, with no relation to the main house, the local planning Authority could decide that an unauthorized ‘material change of use’ has occurred, for which planning permission will be required.
Mobile Homes and Caravans can be sited and used in a garden without the need for express planning consent. If the use is not considered part of, or incidental to, the house, then a ‘material change of use’ may have occurred. If the caravan is not considered to conform to the definition of a caravan then ‘building operations’ may have been carried out. In either case, planning permission will be required.
Mobiles Homes can be assembled onsite from prefabricated panels and the mobility off-site and down a non-specific road is hypothetical.
This is best answered in ‘The Appeal Decision; Brightlingsea Haven Limited v. Morris 2008’ where it stated ‘It is the structure that must conform to the law not the means of access to where the structure actually is, and whether it may have difficulty in reaching a road.’
It is now common practice to build or assemble caravans in hard to access back gardens. The structure must remain movable and capable of transport down a hypothetical road, even if access to a road may require craning over buildings or complicated procedures. The structure need not have direct access to a road to be deemed a ‘caravan’. In terms of construction, Mobile Homes can be assembled onsite from many prefabricated pieces so long as they conform to the construction and mobility test. Other caravans like touring and static caravans need not meet the construction tests but must remain movable. For large mobile homes it is recommended a kit-form caravan is purchased from a specialist reputable manufacturer as opposed to building one independently.
Many people think of mobile homes and static caravans as having substandard comfort, dreary designs and paper-thin walls. However, they are not all like this. Modern mobile homes can offer all the luxury of conventional residential living. They can be built to the same insulation values as a normal house and come in a variety of designs and styles.
Although the maximum size of a caravan is limited to 20 x 6.8m in the Caravan Sites Acts, it is still considerably large, with enough space for over five bedrooms, toilets, kitchen and living spaces. A caravan can be significantly larger than most buildings capable of obtaining planning approval as annexes.
Many homeowners are familiar with the ‘Permitted Development Right’ to have sheds and other outbuildings in a garden without the need for planning approval (The Town and Country Planning General Permitted Development Order 2008). However, the development rights for outbuildings don’t allow living accommodation and a structure with a kitchen and bathroom is not allowed.
The main problem that occurs with the Local Authorities (if the boundary of the garden and compliance with the Caravans Sites Act is not in question) will be the argument that if the caravan has all the facilities for independent living it is therefore capable of being used as a separate dwelling and a separate planning unit will have been created. Consequently, the use of the land will have changed from a single dwelling or incidental to the enjoyment of the dwelling. However, this argument is not supported by Case Law. All caravans have the facilities for independent living by their very definition. There is no law that states that a caravan with full living facilities constitutes development. This applies more to buildings than caravans. One possibility to overcome this argument is to independently sign an ‘affidavit/statutory declaration’ stating that the use of the caravan will be not be as a separate dwelling.
The answer is yes, but you can’t use the caravan as accommodation. It must be used in association with the use of the land. On farm land the caravan must be used for farming activities, storage or a rest area required by health and safely for workers. It cannot be used residentially as living accommodation without approval because the ‘use’ of the land would have changed from agricultural to domestic and a ‘material change of use’ would have occurred. A mobile home can, however, be used as accommodation for a limited 28 days of the year. There is no clear wording within this law that states the caravan needs to be moved off-site when not inhabited.
You don’t have to contact the Council but it is recommended, especially in cases of large mobile homes. If all the circumstances are satisfied and Lawful, then you can get a letter of confirmation from the Council, either an informal reply to a letter or via an official Lawful Development Certificate, which involves completing the application documents, exampled in this book.
Statistically there will be a high chance of refusal. When residential annexes are granted planning permission they are frequently smaller 1-2 bedroom buildings. Mobile homes can be 20 x 6.7 metres and have over 5 bedrooms, significantly larger than a building likely to be granted conventional planning approval. Additionally there is no restriction on style. Planning permission will often require that the style and finish is ‘in keeping’ with the area. Whilst, a mobile home can be finished to your preferred taste.
Planning Law for 'Mobile Homes' and 'Caravans' in Gardens – Legal References
Readers may ask where is the actual law written that says a caravan or mobile home can be sited and used in a garden? There are Legal references regarding the use of caravans in gardens but there is in fact no direct Law preventing a caravan being kept in someone’s garden.
A caravan sited in a garden is regarded as ‘chattel’ this is an article of movable personal property. There is no permitted development right for caravans in gardens, just as there is none for garden furniture or a car. All are considered articles of movable personal property. Caravans are not buildings.
The question is not, where is the planning law that allows the use of caravans in gardens? But rather how is the use of a caravan kept outside of planning control? The answer; the structure must conform to the definition of a caravan, the location must be the actual garden and the caravan must be used in association with the house, it cannot be an independent dwelling.
Key Legal References
- Section 55(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 defines ‘development’, which requires planning permission, as carrying out of building and other operations or making of any material change in the use of any buildings or other land. Stationing a caravan is not a building operation and, providing a caravan is used as part and parcel of the house and garden, it doesn’t constitute a material change of use.
- Under s 55(2)(d) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 the use of any buildings or other land within the curtilage of a dwellinghouse for any purpose incidental to the enjoyment of the dwellinghouse as such is not to be taken to involve development of the land.
- The Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 Schedule 1. Use within the curtilage of a dwellinghouse. A site licence shall not be required for the use of land as a caravan site if the use is incidental to the enjoyment as such of a dwellinghouse within the curtilage of which the land is situated.
Greenbelt and Conservation Areas
Many homeowners are familiar with ‘permitted development rights’. This is the allowance to construct outbuildings, extensions, sheds etc. without the need for planning approval. However, these rights are often restricted to properties within greenbelt and conservation areas, areas of outstanding natural beauty or scientific interest. This does NOT restrict the use of mobile homes. The crucial fact is that the use of a caravan is NOT a permitted development right or even ‘development’. Caravans are not ‘buildings’ or ‘structures’. So if there is a Law that restricts permitted development or applies to buildings or structures, it should not restrict the use of a caravan. There are some exceptions, for example, if a mobile home sited in open country land is considered harmful to the greenbelt.
Article 4 Direction
The local planning authority may have removed the permitted development rights of an area by issuing an Article 4 direction. This is common in new housing estates. Unless specifically used to restrict the use of caravans the restriction will normally be upon ‘permitted development’, which does not include caravans, as caravans are not development.
Restrictive Building Covenants
Restrictive covenants are basically a form of private planning control. They place restrictions on the development or use of land, for the benefit of another piece of land, and are enforceable by one landowner against another. In some cases, particularly modern housing estates, the developer may have placed a restricted covenant that states that caravans and motorhomes cannot be parked in the garden or drive. In these cases a caravan will not be allowed unless the original builder lifts or cancels the covenant, which can often be arranged.
Orchards and Paddocks and Woodland
If there is a lack of distinction between the boundary and use of the garden and other areas of your property, for example an orchard area or field used to keep horses that are used by members of the household, then planning permission will usually be required, as the Council will often not conclude such areas are ‘domestic’ curtilage, even if they are parcel to your property as a whole. One recommendation is, before commencing with any caravan proceedings, to separately apply for planning permission for ‘change of use’ of these areas to residential curtilage or garden. This can be supported with a site map indicating the entire property boundary that can be drawn into new deeds for your property. Additionally the Land Registry can be contacted to confirm the registered ‘use’.
Does the Planning Authority Need Contacting?
The answer is No. If the proposed mobile home falls within the criteria of use, conformity and location, then the situation is outside of planning control and approval from the Authorities is not needed. We do, however, advise that in all cases a Lawful development Certificate is obtained for peace of mind.
Contacting the Planning Authority
Your local planning authority (LPA) is there to help. Since there can be uncertainty over the lawfulness of stationing and using a caravan or mobile home, initially, you may want to write a letter detailing the location and use of the proposed caravan. If lawful you may want to apply for a lawful development certificate (LDC).
Lawful Development Certificates
A lawful development certificate (LDC) is a statutory document confirming that the use, operation or activity named in it is lawful for planning control purposes. Once granted, the certificate will remain valid for the use or development described in it, on the land it describes as long as the use doesn’t change. You must apply to the local planning authority (LPA) for such a certificate. In cases where a new caravan is to be sited in a garden the LDC for a ‘Proposed’ use is required. This is where you wish to confirm that what you are proposing would be lawful i.e. it would not require express planning permission. For example you may need to establish that what you have proposed does not constitute development.
You may wish to write to the Planning Authority on an informal basis asking in principle if a caravan or mobile home can be used in your garden without planning permission. The advantage of informal letters is you often receive a quicker response but the disadvantage being it’s not a legally binding decision and it can later be disregarded if on closer inspection the situation is proven unlawful, for example the location is not later considered garden, but an ‘orchard’ for example.
In situations where a static caravan is being used for a short number of years on an occasional basis, you may consider an informal written response from the authorities is sufficient confirmation that the use is outside of planning control. For larger, more expensive, mobile homes that are for permanent use, then an application for a lawful development certificate is advised.
This information is designed to provide information and motivation to its readers. The author and publisher are not offering it as legal, planning, or other professional services advice. Every planning situation is different and the advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation. Whilst every care has been taken to ensure the accuracy in the content of this work, this guide is intended only to give guidance; it is not an authoritative statement of the law. You should seek the services of a competent professional before entering into any contractual obligations or financial commitments. Neither the author nor the publisher shall be held liable or responsible to any person or entity for loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the material in this publication.
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