On 12 June 2020, we reported on the Planning Inspectorate’s decision on the application of permitted development rights to unlawful dwellings.

On 01 July 2020, the Planning Inspectorate heard an appeal against Wyre Forest District Council in respect of Harborough Farm Barn. However, in this appeal, the Planning Inspectorate appear to have come to the opposite conclusion based on similar fact. We examine the details of this decision and what this means for registered providers (RPs) below.


The applicant obtained planning permission for the conversion of a barn to a residential dwelling in 2001. The conversion was implemented in breach of the conditions contained in the planning permission. In 2016, the Council granted a Lawful Development Certificate (LDC) in respect of this breach.

The applicant applied to the Council for a certificate of proposed lawful use to carry out works pursuant to their permitted development rights. The certificate was refused and an appeal was made to the Planning Inspectorate.

Planning Inspectorate decision

The applicant succeeded in their appeal. The Planning Inspectorate determined that the barn conversion became a lawful dwelling and its own independent planning unit. The planning inspector explicitly stated: “[…] the use of the property as a single dwelling house had become immune from enforcement and was thereby lawful.” As such, the dwelling benefits from permitted development rights applicable to a single-dwelling house.

A different position

In this appeal, the inspector came to the opposite decision of the appeal relating to North Downs House. In that appeal, although it was recognised that the dwelling had acquired immunity, the inspector was not of the view permitted development applied.

One distinguishing element (although not explicitly stated) may be that in the case of Harborough Farm Barn, a Certificate of Lawful Existing Use has been granted by the local planning authority, whereas the certificate had not been obtained in respect of North Downs House. 

The function of the certificate is to confirm that a breach of planning control is immune from enforcement, therefore we are of the view that the status of the dwelling is lawful at the time the relevant enforcement period elapses. In the case of a breach of planning condition, this is 10 years.

What does this mean for RPs?

Upon acquisition of land, it is important to ascertain the planning history and ensure that any existing planning conditions or obligations have been complied with. This could have a significant impact in the ability to use the property as planned.

You should always seek advice if you are unsure about whether your intended works will require planning permission. If this is found to be a breach of planning control, the local planning authority can serve a notice and require the breach to be remedied. A breach of an enforcement notice is a criminal offence.

How Capsticks can help

Our Housing & Regeneration team, one of the largest in the country, advises on all types of development transactions from forward funded schemes, section 106 developments and stock rationalisations to plot sales and general asset management work. We are experts on all aspects of planning law including s106 agreements, CIL advice, planning appeals, Compulsory Purchase Orders and all general planning law matters.

If you have any queries around what's discussed in this article, and the impact on your organisation, please speak to Suzanne Smith, Jennifer Eng or any of your contacts at Capsticks, to find out more about how we can help.