Home > News > Court of Appeal considers question of over-enforcement in the context of unlawful building conversion

The Court of Appeal handed down judgment in Oates v Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government [2018] EWCA Civ 2229, which considered the rights of a property owner who had converted buildings, but the council had issued an enforcement notice which required demolition of three “new buildings”. The Court considered the effect of the Mansi doctrine, as well as the line between a “conversion” and “demolition” of an old building.

Mr Oates had converted chicken sheds into residential dwellings, incorporating parts of the previous buildings in the dwellings. The council issued an enforcement notice describing the breach of planning control as the “erection of three new buildings” and the remedy as demolition of those buildings.

It was argued by Mr Oates that the pre-existing parts of the building should be protected, and to require the demolition of these constituted overenforcement. This was because (1) the Mansi doctrine (that pre-existing use rights should not be enforced against) applied to buildings as well as use, and (2) the statutory definition of building included “parts of a building”.

Both arguments were rejected. The Court of Appeal found that in a conversion, there is logically a point where the conversion is such that the result are new buildings, and that is a matter of fact and degree for the Inspector. The Inspector’s finding on this point was rational and lawful and the Court of Appeal dismissed Mr Oates’ appeal.

Leon Glenister represented the Secretary of State, instructed by Ashleigh Woodhouse of the Government Legal Department.

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