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Planning & Legal

The below advice is provided to aid you in understanding the applicable planning law and is given by relevant specialists in their field but local policy and legislation can vary by area so therefore we recommend that you get professional advice on on a project by project basis.

Legal Opinion

Legal definition of a caravan

There are both legal and planning rules that have to be observed when purchasing and locating a Timberspecs mobile home.

The first essential is in respect of planning control. Before a Timberspecs mobile home can be delivered to a site, there must be either a current planning permission in place for the stationing of the mobile home on site to which it is to be delivered or a Certificate of Lawful Development establishing a long standing right to be able to locate a mobile home in the same place as specified within that Certificate.

A purchaser of a Timberspecs mobile home will be solely responsible for ensuring that these matters are already established at the time of purchase. A purchaser of a Timberspecs mobile home is also responsible for ensuring that there is a suitable and secure base on site onto which the mobile home can be placed. Timberspecs, for their part in the requirements for the lawful supply of one of their mobile homes, will ensure that the legal definition of a caravan, as set out above, has been met by the mobile home that is delivered to the purchaser’s site.

Timberspecs will also be able to answer any questions that may be raised by a Local Planning Authority as to their compliance with the relevant Rules. In addition, Timberspecs has obtained a legal opinion dealing with questions that have been raised in the past and will be glad to supply a copy if requested.

Opinion from: HARRY WOLTON, Q.C (Legal and Planning Consultant)

Opinion On The Legal Aspects Of The Supply Of Mobile Homes

1.         There are 4 key elements that have to be considered in order to be satisfied that a Timberspecs mobile home complies with the legal requirements set out in the relevant legislation which is the “Definition of a Caravan” contained at Section 29 of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 as subsequently amended and extended.

2.         The first of these is the obvious requirement that the mobile home shall be designed or adapted for human habitation. If I refer to the Timberspecs brochure, it is evident that this requirement is fully met by all those mobile homes that are supplied by Timberspecs.

3.         The second requirement relates to the actual size of the mobile home. This is a matter of fact that is evident from the design of the mobile home. The limits specified within the Act are:

(i)         length: (exclusive of drawbar) 20 metres (65,616 feet)

(ii)        width:   6.8 metres (22,309 feet)

(iii)       height (measured internally) from lowest floor level to the ceiling at the highest level: 3.05 metres (10,006 feet)

4.         The third requirement is as to how the mobile home is constructed both when it is delivered and when necessary work is done on site following delivery:

(i)         the legal specification:

in “not more than two sections separately constructed and designed to be assembled on a site by means of bolts clamps or other devices….”

(ii)        it is self-evident that if the Timberspecs mobile home is delivered to the site in two sections, they will have to be joined together. The method used for such“joining together” is clear from the legislation when it refers to “bolts or clamps” but is significantly vague when using the words “or other devices”. The usual legal rule for interpretation of statutes is that the vague word should be treated as being similar to the other express words to which it is annexed (the eiusdem generis rule). In this case, therefore, the “other devices” should be joining devices that can be sensible alternatives to “bolts or clamps”. The fundamental purpose of a bolt or a clamp is to hold the two sections together. It must follow therefore, that any other “device” that has the same purpose and effect will fall within the legal requirement. I cite, as examples, a length of wood or steel that has the same effect in joining the two sections together. This cannot be an exclusivelist of alternative devices – it is the intention of the method of joining the two sections together that is the essence of the legal requirement.

5.         The fourth requirement is referable to the method of transport of the mobile home to the site at which it:

It is “when assembled physically capable of being moved by road from one place to another (whether by being towed or by being transported on a motor vehicle or trailer”

            There then follows a caveat that has a clear and ascertainable meaning:
(the mobile home) “shall not be treated as not being a caravan… reason only that it cannot lawfully be so moved on a highway when assembled

(i)         This requirement appears to be intended to ensure that the structure is, truly, “mobile”. The two sections must be capable of being moved by road BUT the fact that the two sections, when assembled, cannot, lawfully be moved by road IN ONE LOAD does not affect the validity of the mobile home

(ii)        the times when Local Planning Authorities test this requirement is often after the delivery and assembly of the mobile home. The test applied is whether or not the structure can (a) be disassembled and (b) lifted so as to establish that the structure remains “mobile”

(iii)       what happens to a Timberspecs mobile home after it has been delivered to site and  assembled is, clearly, a matter for whoever occupies or owns the mobile home from then on. If the structure is altered in such a way as not to comply with the legal requirement, then it cannot be Timberspecs’ responsibility.

Opinion from: HARRY WOLTON, Q.C  (Legal and Planning Consultant)

Planning Advice

Deciding whether or not planning permission is required is complex as consultations with different Local Planning Authorities (LPA) will often result in a wide variety of responses. Our retained planning consultants, Clive Miller and Associates Ltd (CMA) explain some of the instances when is necessary for a mobile home.

  • The proposed site is outside of the existing garden area of a dwelling;
  • The garden involved relates to a listed building or is within a National park or within an Article 4 area designated by an LPA to remove permitted development rights;
  • The structure does not comply with the legal definition of a caravan;
  • The use of the lodge is deemed to constitute a separate dwelling;
  • The size of lodge, although complying with the legal definition of a caravan is nevertheless judged to be so large as not to be incidental to the dwelling;

Generally however, planning permission is unlikely to be required for the siting of a mobile home within the curtilage of a dwelling provided that it is used in a manner incidental to the enjoyment of that dwelling. Therefore our Garden Cottages can be regarded as permitted development, depending on how they are occupied. To be sure that it is regarded as an incidental use, there must be a significant degree of joint occupation of the dwelling and the garden so that the occupants of the Garden Cottage and the dwelling can be regarded as living as a single household. Factors which will help to determine that the occupation is definitely incidental to the dwelling;

  • Taking of some main meals as a single household.
  • Shared use of laundry and utility facilities.
  • Shared use of all garden areas.
  • Shared use of access and parking areas.
  • A clear interdependence between the people residing in the lodge and those in the main dwelling.
  • Close physical proximity of the house and the Garden Cottage.

Factors that will cause issues

  • Having separate public utility and services connections with separate bills.
  • Having a separate postal address and/or letter boxes.
  • Physical subdivision of the garden areas and parking areas.
  • Lack of family or other dependency connection with the owners/occupiers of the dwelling.
  • The construction of permanent extensions to the caravan such that it might be judged to be a building, in which case another set of rules will apply relating to its size, position and use.

Therefore the decision of whether permission is required or not is judged on a case by case basis depending on the circumstances and the approach of the individual LPA. Ultimately, if an LPA considers that the use is not ancillary or incidental (or likely to be) they would state that planning permission is required, or if the use has already started, they might request a retrospective application. If one declines to submit an application, the onus would then be on the LPA to evidence that the use and occupation is such that a separate dwelling has been created. Although this might be very hard for an LPA to prove, having to defend an Enforcement Action by the LPA can be very stressful. To avoid this situation and gain certainty from the outset, the submission of an application for a Certificate of Lawful Proposed Development can be made to formally establish that planning permission is not required. Alternatively, if the matter as to whether permission might be required is not clear cut, a further approach would be to submit a planning application accompanied by a Unilateral Undertaking. This is a legally binding document registered as a charge on the property that will ensure that a separate dwelling cannot legally be created and that the Garden Cottage can only ever be used by dependant members of the same household.

Want further advice?

If you need more planning advice about your particular situation, CMA will be pleased to respond to a short phone call or email free of charge, but will reserve the right to request payment for further more detailed advice or work relating to research into local planning policies applying in your area, discussions and negotiations with planners and the preparation and submission of planning applications and unilateral undertakings.

Clive Miller & Associates Ltd

Sanderley Studio, Kennel Lane, Langport, Somerset, TA10 9SB

Tel:   01458 252806