New Judgment: Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Anor v Welwyn Hatfield BC  UKSC 15
06 Wednesday Apr 2011
On appeal from:  EWCA Civ 26
The Council appealed a decision that a structure built under planning permission to become a barn, but in fact built as a dwelling, was within the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, 171B(2) in that the four year time limit for taking enforcement action had lapsed. Appeal unanimously allowed. The Court held first that the building which Mr Beesley constructed was not the permitted barn: it was a dwelling house. Therefore there could not have been a change of use within section 171B(2) from the use permitted by the planning permission. In any event, it was doubtful whether change of use under section 171B(2) could consist of a simple departure from permitted use. The word “use” in the section is directed to real or material use, not permitted use. Additionally, to dismiss the appeal would also damage the public’s confidence in planning law: any law-abiding citizen would be astonished to suppose that Mr Beesley’s dishonest scheme, once being discovered, would not be enforced against but rather crowned with success. It is unthinkable that Parliament intended such an outcome. Even if, therefore, Mr Beesley had come within the literal wording of section 171B(2), his conduct took him outside its scope.