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Supreme Court rules on home disguised as barn

DATE: 06 Apr 2011

The Supreme Court today gave judgment in Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and another v Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council [2011] UKSC 15.

In 2001 Mr Beesley applied for and obtained planning permission to construct a hay barn for grazing and haymaking on open land which he owned in the Green Belt. In 2002 he constructed a building which was to all external appearances the permitted barn, but internally was a fully fitted-out dwelling house with garage, living room, study, bedrooms, bathrooms and gym. In August 2002 he moved in with his wife and lived there continuously for four years. In August 2006 Mr Beesley made an application for a certificate of lawfulness for use of the building as a dwelling house. He contended that the four year time limit for taking enforcement action in section 171B(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 ("the 1990 Act") was applicable and had elapsed (this provides "where there has been a breach of planning control consisting in the change of use of any building to use as a single dwelling house, no enforcement action may be taken after the end of four years beginning with the date of the breach").  The certificate was granted and subsequently upheld by the Court of Appeal.

The Supreme Court unanimously allowed Welwyn Hatfield's appeal holding (i) there had been no change of use within section 171B(2); (ii) in any event, Mr Beesley's dishonest conduct meant that he could not rely on the section.

See: http://www.supremecourt.gov.uk/docs/UKSC_2010_0036_JudgmentV2.pdf

James Maurici appeared for the Secretary of State (leading Sarah-Jane Davies).