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Mobile Homes and Residential Garden Annexes: Also called Caravan Granny Annex Lodges.
The laws surrounds touring caravans, the type you tow behind a car, also apply to mobile home and
static caravans, a type that can be significantly larger and suitable for year-round residential accommodation.
Key factors: Location. The Caravan must be in the ‘Curtilage’ of a dwelling house. This is the drive or garden, no adjoining paddock land, for example. The land must be situated outside of a conservation area, national park or article land where development is restricted.
Use: The use must accompany the house, used by a family member or guest accommodation for example and not rented as a private residence or a separate dwelling or a business premises.
Structure: The actual structure must conform to the legal definition of a ‘caravan’ based on its size, mobility and construction method.
Overview of the Law – Caravans in Gardens: A caravan, be it a touring or static caravan or a large twin-size mobile home, is regarded as an article of movable personal property known as a ‘chattel’ and there is no public law preventing one being kept in someone’s garden. The siting of a caravan within the garden of a property does not require express consent provided a ‘material change of use’ has not occurred. Gardens are used for the enjoyment of the main dwelling house. If a caravan is parked in a drive or sited in a garden and used by members of the household in connection to the enjoyment of the house or as extra accommodation for visiting guests, provided the occupants continue to use the facilities of the house, then the siting of the caravan has not changed the ‘use’ of the land. However, if for example a caravan is sited in a garden and used as a business premises, separately rented or used as a primary independent dwelling with no relation to the main house, the local planning Authority could decide that an unauthorized ‘material change of use’ has occurred, for which planning permission will be required.
The Legal Definition of a ‘Caravan’: Section 29 (1) of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 defined a caravan as: “... Any structure designed or adapted for human habitation which is capable of being moved from one place to another (whether 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 system, or (B) Any tent” Section 13 (1) of the Caravan Sites Act 1968, which deals with twin-unit caravans. Section 13 (1) provides that: “A structure designed or adapted for human habitation which: (A) Is composed of not more than two sections separately constructed and designed to be assembled on a site by means of bolts, clamps and other devices; and (B) Is, when assembled, physically capable of being moved by road from one place to another (whether being towed, or by being transported on a motor vehicle or trailer), shall not be treated as not being (or have been) a caravan within the means of Part 1 of the Caravan Sites Control of Development Act 1960 by reason only that it cannot lawfully be moved on a highway when assembled”. Amendment of the definition of caravan 2006 (a) Length (exclusive of any drawbar) 20m (65.6FT) (b) Width: 6.8m (22.3ft) (c) Overall height (measured internally from the floor at the lowest level to the ceiling at the highest level) 3.05m (10ft)
The definition of a dwelling house is given meaning in the Rent Act 1977 (CAA01/S531): A dwelling house is a building, or part of a building, which is a person's home. A person's second or holiday home is a dwelling house as is a flat that is used as a residence. A block of flats is not a dwelling house although the individual flats within the block may be. University halls of residence, accommodation used for holiday letting, a hospital, a nursing home or a prison are not dwelling houses.
Definition of Curtilage The definition of a ‘curtilage’ or ‘domestic’ curtilage is usually a garden, but can include parking areas, access roads, vegetable plots, children’s play areas, and stables (where the horses are kept for pleasure rather than agricultural use). The domestic curtilage is not necessarily marked off or enclosed, but it should be clearly attached to the house or serving the purpose of the house in some useful and intimate way. When all the land surrounding a property is garden and drive, assessing the domestic curtilage is clear. It's the boundary of the parcel of land around your house, the front, back and side gar- dens, usually with some sort of boundary such as a fence or a wall between your curtilage and your neighbours. It will often be indicated on the house Deeds.
Definition of Incidental: The Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act1960 both use the term ‘Incidental to the enjoyment’ with reference to the use of a structure or caravan in association with the main house. The term "incidental" is not defined in planning law. A dictionary definition reads ‘happening as a minor accompaniment to something else’. In general planning terms incidental means accompanying something. Often referred to as ‘ancillary use’ meaning supporting. The use of the caravan must accompany or support the use of the dwelling house, this way a ‘change of use’ of the land has not occurred. Living, sleeping, eating, washing and storing belongings are often referred to as the ‘primary uses of a dwelling house’. If a caravan is used in any of the above manners and not say a business operation or rented as holiday accommodation, then the use of the caravan may be described as being ‘incidental to the primary uses of the dwelling house’. Authorities can often be con- cerned a caravan or mobile home could be used as an separate dwelling as it may have all the facilities that allow independent living.
This is further complicated by the legal requirement that a caravan must be ‘designed or adapted for human habitation’. Meaning capable of being lived in. Although a caravan can have full living, sleeping, washing and cooking facilities (designed for habitation) and be used in a residential manner on an on-going basis under the primary use of the house, the use should accompany or depend on the house in a vital or non-trivial way. Each situation of use is unique. A clear example of incidental use would be resident family members who sleep and wash in the caravan but will have meals, store belongings and conducts daily activities in the dwelling house. A room in the caravan may be designated as a children’s music room or playroom, clearly demonstrating that is incidental use. The caravan itself might also depend on the services and access of the main dwelling. Non-incidental use for example may be use by a person who has had no previous association or registration at the address or owners. The caravan might have its own access and service connections. If demonstrating use is difficult, consider making a sworn statement with the Council that the caravan will not become a separate dwelling.
Restrictions under deed: There may be a clause in the deeds of your property that prohibits storage of a caravan or mobile home on a driveway or even within the boundary of the house – you may wish to check this with your solicitor or mortgage provider. Most prohibitive clauses such as caravans and the ‘no business use’ in deeds are inserted by the builder so that his development remains tidy and does not put new buyers off. Once the estate or development is sold, the developer doesn’t care who puts what where and a complaint from a neighbour would fall on deaf ears and as only the person who placed the restriction in the deeds can take action, he/she is not likely to spend money on a court action as they no longer have any interest in the area once the last new house has been sold.
Section 55(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 defines ‘development’, which requires planning permission, as carrying out of building and other operations or making of any material change in the use of any buildings or other land.
Stationing a caravan (or any other unit that complies with the Caravan Acts) is not a building operation and, providing a caravan is used as part and parcel of the house and garden, it doesn’t constitute a material change of use.
Under s 55(2)(d) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 the use of any buildings or other land within the curtilage of a dwellinghouse for any purpose incidental to the enjoyment of the dwellinghouse as such is not to be taken to involve development of the land.
The Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 Schedule 1. Use within the curtilage of a dwellinghouse. A site licence shall not be required for the use of land as a caravan site if the use is incidental to the enjoyment as such of a dwellinghouse within the curtilage of which the land is situated.
The crucial fact is that the use of a caravan is NOT a permitted development right or even ‘development’. Caravans are not ‘buildings’ or ‘structures’. So if there is a Law that restricts permitted development or ap- plies to buildings or structures, it should not restrict the use of a caravan. There are some exceptions, for example, if a mobile home sited in open country land is considered harmful to the greenbelt.
Greenbelt, Conservation Areas & “Permitted Development Rights” The term ‘permitted development rights’ applies to any garden building that can legally be installed, such as sheds or house extensions without planning permission However, these rights are often restricted to properties within greenbelt and conservation areas, areas of outstanding natural beauty or scientific interest (article 4 direction). However this does NOT restrict the use of mobile homes but it is advisable to seek the opinion of the local planning department in these sensitive areas to avoid future conflict.
As a general guide if your proposed unit complies with the following details you should be able to install a Lodge/Granny Anex/Static Caravan without requiring Planning Consent:
The maximum size of the unit should be no more than 20m x 6.8m The maximum height from the highest point of the floor to the lowest point of the ceiling must not exceed 3.05m The unit must be constructed in no more than two halves and the final act of construction must be joining the two together to make a whole. The unit must be capable of being lifted onto a trailer as a whole building The building must be sited within the curtilage of and have a correlation with the main house. The location isn’t in a Conservation Area, a AONB or a National Park Etc.
Q: My site access is restricted and I can’t get two halves of a mobile home to my site. Is there anything we can do?
A: Yes there is, it is not a problem as we will do a design specification to make sure we can get the components on site and assemble the two halves on site prior to joining them.
Q: How do I prove the unit can be lifted as required by law?
A: You don’t have to! We generate a set of unit and site specific structural calculations to demonstrate that it is possible.
Q: Can I connect to mains power, water and waste?
A: You can—there is no prohibition in the act to prevent you doing so.
Q: Do I need wheels on a chassis to prove that the unit will move.
A: No, we supply an insulated and engineered floor cassette that replaces a chassis.
Q: If Urban Marque Ltd lodges are not classed as buildings, why do we need to comply with UK Building Regulations?
A: You don’t! We only supply the very best and as such we make sure that all our units will meet conventional house standards even though they are classed as Caravans. You can be sure that your Urban Marque Lodge will serve you in exactly the same way as a traditional house would at a fraction of the cost.
This section is fairly complicated so we will not go into great detail The Town & Country Planning Act 1990 introduced new criteria for the period after which enforcement action is not possible against a breach of planning control.
Any building, engineering or other works which have taken place without the benefit of planning permission, and that have remained unchallenged by enforcement action for 4 years or more, cannot be enforced against. So the erection of a building which goes undetected for 4 years will be allowed to remain. However, the use of the building may not.
Any change in the Use of land and buildings must have existed for in excess of 10 years before it can be protected from enforcement action. Therefore you may have a perfectly adequate building but no lawful use for it. Similarly, the ten-year immunity rule applies to breaches of planning conditions (4 years for breaches relating to the use as a single dwelling house). Any breach of condition that occurred more than 10 years before the date on which the Council first takes enforcement action against that breach and which has remained continuously in breach over that period may then benefit from immunity.
In all cases if challenged you will need to produce sufficient evidence to prove, to the satisfaction of the Council, that the breach has occurred for longer than the appropriate period, without significant changes or breaks in the period of use.
EG A caravan has been on the land for more than 10 years without any action being taken and is being replaced. You need to collect evidence and prove that this is the case.
If you have any doubts about your position you can as your local council for:
A lawful development certificate: If you want to be certain that the existing use of a building is lawful for planning purposes or that your proposal does not require planning permission you can apply for a 'Lawful Development Certificate' (LDC). It is not compulsory to have an LDC but there may be times when you need one to confirm that the use, operation or activity named in it is lawful for planning control purposes. Refer to your application as ‘Caravan’ never as a Mobile Home. If your application is partly or wholly refused or is granted differently from what you asked for, or is not determined within the time limit of eight weeks, you can appeal. Appeals are made to the Planning Inspectorate. There is no fee attached to making a planning appeal, however there is a fee attached to an Enforcement Notice appeal.
Green Belt & Conservation areas, along with Areas of outstanding natural beauty (ANOB) may be a little different and could possibly have local rules concerning permitted development projects but as we have seen earlier, the emplacement of a caravan, that is fully compliant with the demands of the caravan acts, does not constitute a development, structure or a building operation and as such, it would not be restricted.
Clearly, siting a large unit on open aspect land would not be acceptable and could trigger enforcement action from the local authority to remove it. In all cases we recommend that write to your local planning office pointing out your intention and ask for their approval. In many cases a letter will be sent back acknowledging your proposed action and subject to compliance, confirm that they will not take any enforcement action. Others may ask you to apply for a Lawful Development Certificate which may take several weeks to issue and this will give you the permission to place the unit in the curtilage of your home.
The law is clear, that caravans do not require planning permission subject to the compliance rules discussed earlier but some council officers can and do investigate the placement of a unit in your garden and may look for a breach of the law so it is always a good plan to obtain a letter of approval or a ‘Certificate of Lawfulness” - just to be on the safe side.
Urban Marque Ltd can supply a draft letter for you to send to the council and we will also obtain a Lawful Development Certificate through our planning and operations office that is headed by a qualified lawyer. We can also advise on legal and planning issues that may arise in the course of any type of construction and our expertise is not just restricted to caravan law.
An article 4 direction is sometimes removed by a local authority but as this refers to ‘permitted development rights’ then it doesn't affect your installing a caravan - unless of course it specifically refers to a caravan which as indicted earlier, is not a development.
In order to help your application for the granting of a ‘Certificate of Lawfulness” you can make a Statutory Declaration which is in effect a sworn statement of truth in regard to how the caravan will be used. A suitably qualified notary or court officers are authorised to witness a statement of truth known as swearing an oath.
Our planning and operations department can assist you with all planning issues - please contact us if you require help or any of our services.