In a recent ruling, the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division has overturned a local authority decision and, in doing so, provided some clarity on planning permission requirements for decking and hot tub installations on holiday lodge sites.
Graham Hale, Associate Planner in our Cockermouth office, led the appeal and shares his analysis of the case below.
Though, in itself, not ground-breaking, this decision does have wider resonance for the parks industry across Scotland. It’s also a strong statement on the responsibility of Planning Committees to base their determinations on professional guidance and listen to the recommendations of their own Planning Officers.
Mouswald Lodge Park is one of several caravan/lodge sites in the Scottish Borders owned by Border Caravans Ltd. The site is extremely highly rated and has benefitted from significant investment and upgrade since purchased in 2007. As part of this, and in keeping with facilities offered by competitors, the owners had installed new decking around the caravans and provided 11 hot tubs for customers’ use.
Due to the easily moveable nature of these facilities, the owners presumed that they did not qualify as ‘development’ within the meaning of the planning acts and, therefore, did not require planning permission. However, Dumfries and Galloway (D&G) Council decided otherwise and demanded retrospective submission of a planning application under threat of an enforcement action to remove both decking and hot tubs.
WYG Planners from our Cockermouth office submitted the application which, despite approval by the Council’s Planning Officers, was refused in committee. Following subsequent discussions with D&G Planning Officers, and their support, a revised application was submitted the following month but this too was refused by the Council, which also resolved to take the threatened enforcement action.
We immediately appealed this decision which, more than a year after D&G Council’s original intervention, led to the Scottish Reporter’s determination and award of costs in our client’s favour.
The Reporter’s decision confirmed that the hot tubs do not require planning permission, as they are moveable chattel that can be installed or relocated without any material operation. With the growing use of decking and hot tubs as part of a modern luxury holiday caravan site, this provides reassurance for others looking to provide a similar quality experience.
Though the decision regarding the decking was that it did require permission, the Reporter found that the Council’s behaviour was unreasonable in going against the recommendations of its own officers, gave weight to irrelevant considerations and relied on vociferous local opposition rather than the objective evidence supplied.
Whilst we are delighted to have helped secure this result, we are equally concerned that an appeal was required in order to achieve it. As a professional consultancy we recommend that local authorities are guided by the professional advice and evidence given, rather than unfounded objections, and recognise the sustainable contribution well-run holiday parks, such as Mouswald, make to the local rural economy. Had this been the case, our client could have avoided a year of frustration, loss of income and worry about the potentially devastating impact this could have had on this business.
For further information or advice on how our planning teams work with rural enterprises across Cumbria, Lancashire and South West Scotland, please contact Graham on 01900 898 600 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.