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Can I put a shed on my plot?

Our Barristers opinion: “A shed can be put on the land so long as it houses relevant tools, equipment/materials, for the use on an allotment, vineyard, fruit garden, forestry or any other agricultural use. Sheds do not need to be mobile, on skids or wheels, so long as they are reasonably necessary for the purpose of agriculture, viticulture, horticulture, forestry etc.”
A few chairs and a table within the shed should not be a problem but it should not be full of leisure equipment such as camping beds and children’s play equipment.

In Nottinghamshire: A local authority made the comment “as a guidance as to whether or not planning permission was required for a shed, if the structure can be carried by two individuals, then it is unlikely to require planning permission”. However, when asked about an appropriate size of a shed, our Barrister commented “no one has tested the size of a shed but the structure could be quite large, so long as it houses tools and equipment intended for agriculture”. As a matter of interest, many landowners have built shelters and sheds onto metal skids for a number of years claiming that they are in fact mobile structures and outside the scope of the planning system. Judging by the amount of such structures, particularly in connection with equestrian usage, this approach seems to work in the majority of cases.

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Can I pitch a tent or park a caravan on my plot?

This is a complex question and depends on the intended use of the caravan and the length of time it will be at the location. In order to help clarify this we referred to a legal test case. This test case became the legal precedence over caravans situated on agricultural land (which includes vineyards, tree and shrub nurseries, woodland, apple orchards and allotments). Further provisions are afforded under The Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 which is quoted (in part) below. In addition to these provisions planning permission could be applied for to the local authority for the stationing of a caravan to suit the needs of the individual applicant.

Wealden District Council v Secretary of State for the environment and Colin Day 1988 JPL 268.

In this case the court of appeal upheld that a caravan situated on agricultural land was acceptable if used for a person's shelter from the elements and the storage and mixing of feed for livestock. Presumably the use of a caravan for shelter and the storage and mixing of other ingredients in association with an allotment, a vineyard or a tree and shrub nursery would enjoy the same legal status!

Caravan sites and Control of Development Act 1960 chapter 62 8 and 9

Under this act there are certain provisions which allow individuals to use his or her caravan on private land.

First Schedule

Subject to paragraph 13 of this schedule a site licence shall not be required for use of land as a caravan site by a person who brings the caravan onto the land for a period which includes not more than 2 nights A) If during that period no other caravan is stationed for the purpose of human habitation on that land or any adjoining land in the same occupation (occupation means in this instance one who owns or controls the land or adjacent land if in the same ownership) and (B)if in that period of 12 months ending with the day on which a caravan was stationed anywhere on that land or the said adjoining land for the purpose of human habitation did not exceed 28 days.
Interpretation
In effect this provision allows a land owner to use his or her land for the stationing of a caravan for a maximum of two nights each time and for
several such visits with a caravan the total nights must not exceed 28 in any one year. There are other circumstances where a caravan can be occupied
on an individual's land for longer periods (see seasonal worker and engineering work). In reality if the caravan is suitably screened from view or is not the subject of a complaint it is unlikely that anyone would be counting the days of occupation. The local authorities certainly don't have the budget to address such trivia and there is no requirement for a caravan owner to keep a formal log.

Seasonal Workers

The caravan sites and Control of Development Act 1960 first schedule paragraph 7 states subject to the provisions of paragraph 13 of this schedule a site licence shall not be required for the use as a caravan site on agricultural land for the accommodation during a particular season of a person or persons employed on land in the same occupation.
Interpretation
This provision effectively allows for the stationing of one or more caravans on an individual's land during a particular season. A season is defined as a segment of a year and could be interpreted as the summer season, the winter season or the four seasons of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.

A person employed in farming operations

Farming operations is defined as pertaining to agriculture. This includes viticulture (vine growing), allotments, tree and shrub operations, cider apple orchards and forestry amongst others!
The term employed is defined as to occupy or engage in, and is not a reference to a formal or paid job. Indeed no minimum hours or minimum wage comes into the description 'employed'. In fact no profit or wage have to be received at all.
See quotation from Melton Borough Council. Volunteers are always welcome to work within our vineyards, nurseries, woodlands etc which would satisfy the
requirement of seasonal worker. We have various work covering all seasons.

Building or Engineering Operations

The same act under the first schedule paragraph 9 states, subject to the provision of paragraph 13 of this schedule a site licence shall not be required for the use as a caravan site of land which forms part or adjoins land on which building or engineering operations are being carried out (being operations for the carrying out of which permission under part 111 of the act of 1947 has if required been granted) if that use is for the accommodation of a person or persons employed in connection with the said operations. Volunteers are always needed at all of our locations to undertake engineering or building work.
Interpretation
This provides for one or more caravans to be stationed on land. The land may be of any size and the caravan or caravans may be occupied by an individual
or individuals with or without their families.
The purpose however must be in connection with a building project or engineering project which is taking place on the land or on adjacent land.
Once the building or engineering project has come to an end the caravan or caravans must be removed. There is no time frame laid out however and so long as the occupation doesn't give the impression of a 'sham' the occupation could last for many years. A condition requires that planning permission if required must be granted for the building project or engineering project. Examples of some engineering project on a smaller scale would include the digging of drainage trenches, the installation of underground water pipe, the post and wire operation along with underground anchor systems in connection with vineyards, roads and pathways installing fencing and gates. None of these minor engineering operations would require planning permission. The planning enforcement officer is likely to visit from time to time with a camera in order to check that progress is being made.

Quotations

A recent quotation from Andrew Dudley senior enforcement Melton Borough Council when asked to comment on the term employed in agriculture:

"The condition does not require that the person is employed for paid work, nor gain financial benefit from any employment that they have in agriculture, nor does it specify that the employment needs to be full time, occupy the majority of the occupant's time nor does it set a level of qualification in terms of proportion of income or time spent."

A report from a leading planning barrister when asked to comment on the occupation of one or more caravans when undertaking a building or engineering project:

There is no fixed formula to establish how much construction work the caravan occupier would reasonably have to conduct in order to remain legally on site. It is a matter of fact and degree for a decision maker (local planning authority LPA) or planning inspector in each case. All that the legislation requires is that building operation are being carried out. I would expect decision makers would require some sign of regular and visible progress so that it could sensibly be ascertained that the primary purpose of the occupation of the site to be building operation rather than residential. What will be important is to avoid the appearance of 'sham'.

Is it breaking the law to build a structure or put a caravan on my land?

No it is not breaking the law. The law is only broken if the local authority force you to remove a structure, building or caravan and you refuse to do so. The process of enforcement and an individual's appeal against that enforcement to the secretary of state which is a free process can take a considerable amount of time.

The Four Year Rule

Generally speaking if an individual occupies a caravan , structure, dwelling or for that matter a container or underground bunker for a duration of four years without getting the attention of the local authority, the local authority are unable to enforce upon it. The individual may then apply to the local authority for a certificate of lawfulness. Evidence of the 4 year occupation is required and may include a testimonial from at least three reliable and trustworthy individuals. Evidence from a dated aerial photograph or google earth or a photograph of an individual standing inside or outside of the structure holding a dated newspaper. If this option is adapted it would be advisable to retain the newspaper as evidence.

What is a caravan anyway?

Part 1 of the 1960 Caravan Act defines a caravan as: Any structure designed or adapted for human habitation which is capable of being moved from one place to another (whether by being towed or by being transported on a motor vehicle or trailer) and any motor vehicle so designed or adapted, but does not include A) any railway rolling stock which is for the time being on rails forming part of a railway system or B) any tent.
The Caravan Sites Act 1968 provides S13 Twin unit caravans
1) A structure designed or adapted for human habitation which A) is composed of not more than two sections separately constructed and designed to assembled on a site by means of bolts, clamps or other devices and B) 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) shall not be treated as not being (or as not having been) a caravan within the meaning of part 1 of the Caravan Sites and Control of Developments Act 1960 by reason only that it cannot lawfully be so moved on a highway when assembled.
2) For the purpose of Part 1 of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960, the expression "caravan" shall not include a structure designed or
adapted for human habitation which falls within paragraphs (a) and (b) of the foregoing subsections if it's dimensions when assembled exceed any of
the following limits

Namely

a) Length (exclusive of draw bar) 65.616 feet (20 meters)
b) Width 22.309 feet (6.8 meters)
c) Overall height of living accommodation (measured internally from the floor at the lowest level to the ceiling at the highest level 10.006 feet
(3.05 metres)
3) The minister may by order made by statutory instrument after consultation with such persons or bodies as appear to him to be concerned , substitute for any figure mentioned in subsection (2) of this section such other figure as may be specified in the order.

Therefore, so long as the dimensions fall within those set out above and it is delivered to the site a "mobile home" is capable of being a caravan.

Source a prominent planning barrister 2011.

Expedient to Act

This expression is often used by a local authority in considering whether or not it is worth their while serving an enforcement notice, a measure which takes a great deal of their time and resources.
One recent example is where members of the travelling community occupied land in Leicestershire for several months each spring and summer . However by the time the local authority heard about their presence on the land, they then have to send a contravention notice which is a questionnaire requiring information and return within 28 days. The local authority consider the answers to the questions and decide whether or not their occupation is lawful within planning law. If they decide their occupation is not lawful they serve an enforcement order on them which will require the removal of the caravans and will usually give the owners a period of time, in some cases up to 6 months, to remove them. The recipient of the notice may appeal to the secretary of state to have the enforcement overturned under section 174(2) of the Town and County Planning Act 1990. The local authority will give a choice of grounds under which to appeal. A small fee may be payable depending on which grounds are chosen. The appeal must be received by The Planning Inspectorate prior to the effective date of the enforcement notice.
The occupiers may remain in the caravans during the appeal process which usually takes at least 4 months. However as this total process takes at least 9 months ( in most cases) and costs the local authority and the Planning Inspectorate a considerable amount of resources, the local authority often turn a blind eye to the occupation stating that it is not expedient to act especially as the travellers often vacate the land part way through the cycle of events which leave the local authority out of pocket and on a wild goose chase.
Needless to say that the travellers referred to have for the last two years returned and enjoyed the period of inaction from the local authority and have therefore occupied the land all year round during both years!
If the 2 years reaches 4 years it is unlikely that the local authority will have power to act as it would fall under the 4 year rule!

Our Experiences

At several locations we have successfully applied for a Certificate of Lawful Development for one or more mobile homes to be stationed on land for an uncertain period in connection with a building or engineering project. So far we have no experiences of a Certificate of Lawfulness being refused.
We recently employed a nursery manager at a nursery in Nottinghamshire who resided in a caravan, after a period of 18 months the local authority served an enforcement notice for his removal. This prompted an application for a manager's dwelling in the form of a three bed roomed timber cabin. The local authority rejected the application. However we subsequently appealed to the Secretary of State and permission was duly granted.
We have had no problems when erecting marquees along with numerous tents for family celebrations despite the marquee being erected for several weeks. We have a 30 foot caravan in Cornwall which went unnoticed by the local authority. The caravan has been there such a length of time it is beyond
enforcement.

On several occasions we have stationed caravans on land over summer periods, when approached by the local authority we advised them that the occupants
were all seasonal workers. They happily went away not to be heard from again. The caravans were on the land for 8 months.
All too often the local authority get reports of caravans arriving in fields and the community goes into a panic. When they become aware that they belong
to seasonal workers they usually breathe a sigh of relief.
We have a neighbour in Norfolk who set out to live in a shipping container placed on farm land. By the time the local authority's enforcement officer discovered him it was too late as the 4 year rule applied. He can now remain there permanently.
When building agricultural barns or simply installing posts and wire in a vineyard we advise the local authority that we intend to have workers living in caravans for the duration of the work. The enforcement officer occasionally visits the site, takes a few photographs ( usually not knowing
in which direction to point the camera) and goes away!

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Can I put a fence/build a wall around my plot?

Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 Minor Operations Class A

Permitted development

A. The erection, construction, maintenance, improvement or alteration of a gate, fence, wall or other means of enclosure.
A1 Development is not permitted by Class A if:
(a) The height of any gate, fence, wall or means of enclosure erected or constructed adjacent to a highway used by vehicular traffic, would after the carrying out of the Development exceed one metre above ground level
(b) The height of any other gate, fence, wall or means of enclosure erected or constructed, would exceed two metres above ground level
(c) The height of any gate, fence, wall or other means of enclosure, maintained, improved or altered would, as a result of the Development exceed its former height or the height referred to in sub paragraph (a) or (b) as the height appropriate to it, if erected or constructed, whichever is the greater; or
(d) It would involve development within the cartilage of, or to a gate, fence, wall or other means of enclosure surrounding a listed building.

Our Planning Barrister's opinion: "2 metre high walls are allowed under part 2 of the General Permitted Development Order. They should make up an enclosure but part of the enclosure can be made up of a hedge or fence, constructed out of other material. Remember that gates, walls and fences should be reasonably necessary for the benefit of the plot i.e. to keep out the wind or to secure hens or small livestock or to keep predators out, whether rabbits from eating your vegetables or foxes from preying on hens!"

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