Planning – The Legal Definition of a ‘Caravan’

The Legal Definition of a ‘Caravan’

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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)

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Conforming to the Definition of a Caravan

 

‘There are 3 tests to be applied to the park home: a construction test, a mobility test and a size test’.

Appeal Decision by the Secretly of State. Brentall v. Erewash 2002

Case Law has given further understanding on the definition of a ‘caravan’. Case Laws are new interpretations of Law that are made in Court and can therefore be cited as precedents.

To be deemed a ‘caravan’ a habitable structure must conform to a size and mobility test. This is an evaluation of how the caravan could be moved and a measurement of its physical size. A further ‘construction’ test applies to twin-unit mobile home type caravans.

Size Test

Less than 20m x 6.8m. Less than 3.05m when measured from internal floor to internal ceiling.

Mobility Test

All caravans must be movable in one whole unit when assembled. It is not necessary for a caravan to be towed, only that it is capable of being moved by road. It is the structure that must possess the necessary qualities, not the means of access to any particular road. *

Construction Test Twin Units

There should be two sections separately constructed. The act of joining the two sections together should be the final act of assembly. No requirement that the process of creating the two separate sections must take place away from the site. *

 

*Amendment of the definition of caravan 2006

*Byrne v. Secretary Of State and Arun [1997] 74 P & C R 420.

*Carter and Another -v- Secretary of State and the Carrick District Council [1994]

*Appeal Decision. Brightlingsea Haven Limited v. Morris and others 2008    EWHC 1928 (QB)

*Appeal Decision by the Secretly of State. Brentall v. Erewash 2002

 

Notable Case Law on the Definition of a ‘Caravan’

 

High Court Decision 1997

BYRNE v. SECRETARY OF STATE FOR ENVIRONMENT and ARUN

[1997] 74 P & C R 420.

Abstract: A structure was deemed not a ‘twin-unit caravan’ because it failed the construction and mobility test.

 

On the definition of a ‘Caravan’…

The difficulty in identifying the nature of the development arises from the statutory definition of “caravan”’… The form of the 1968 Act is… to deem something… as “a caravan”… if it satisfies firstly, the construction test and, secondly, the mobility test’.

 

On whether the separate halves of a twin-unit need resemble a ‘caravan’…

There is nothing… to indicate that the separately constructed sections… were to be each identifiable as caravans’.

 

On conforming to the construction test…

Certainly, it is designed to be composed into two sections, then to be bolted together as the paragraph requires, but this argument disregards two words in the paragraph which seem to me to be of importance. The requirement is that the structure should be composed of not more than two sections “separately constructed”. That means, in my judgment, that it was an essential part of the construction process in order to deem a structure as a caravan, that there should be two sections separately constructed’…The whole was not constructed by the method of first having two separate parts’.

 

On conforming to the mobility test…

In applying the transportability test, one could have regard to the fact that although a structure could be capable of being placed on a vehicle it could be damaged in the process of being moved from where it was.

 

Notable Case Law on the Definition of a ‘Caravan’

 

Appeal Decision by an Inspector appointed by the Secretly of State 2002

Brentall v. Erewash Borough Council

 

Abstract: A mobile home built onsite was deemed to conform to the definition of a ‘caravan’ as it satisfied the construction, size and mobility tests.

On the definition of a ‘Caravan’…

‘There are 3 tests to be applied to the park home: a construction test, a mobility test and a size test’.

On the BYRNE v. SSE and Arun Judgment…

It was an essential part of the construction process… that there should be two sections separately constructed… They were not satisfied in that case because the log cabin concerned, composed of individual timbers… had not at any time been composed of 2 separately constructed sections which where jointed together onsite’.

On correctly conforming to the construction test…

‘Though the Park Homes was delivered by lorry in many pieces I see no requirement in section 13(1)(a) that the process of creating the 2 separate sections must take place away from the site on which they are joined together. It is necessary only that the act of joining the 2 sections together should be the final act of assembly. The appellant’s evidence and photographs taken during the process of assembly… demonstrate that the two sections…. Were constructed separately. In my opinion the process fulfilled the test of section 13(1)(a)’.

On conforming to the mobility test, site access…

‘It seems to me that it is the structure that must possess the necessary qualities, not the means of access. It is not necessary for it (a caravan) to be towed, only that it is capable of being moved my road.’

 

Appeal Decision

Brightlingsea Haven Limited and another v. Morris and others 2008    EWHC 1928 (QB)

On conforming to the mobility test. Site Access…

‘The two opposing constructions are these: whether the structure must be capable of being moved by road from one place to another, with no specific places or roads in mind, or whether the structure must be capable of being moved from where it is and moved by road to another place. I have concluded that the first construction is the correct one.  My main reason is that it is consistent with the purpose of the Act that, if a structure is once a caravan, it should remain a caravan if it is itself unaltered, regardless of where it is.  If a lodge meeting the requirements of the section and so a caravan is assembled on a site, it should not cease to be a caravan if it becomes boxed in by other lodges and cannot be got out because lifting apparatus cannot sufficiently approach… In my judgment the test which the structure has to pass is as follows.  It must either be physically capable of being towed on a road, or of being carried on a road, not momentarily but enough to say that it is taken from one place to another.  It is irrelevant to the test where the structure actually is, and whether it may have difficulty in reaching a road’.

 

Carter and Another -v- Secretary of State for the Environment and the Carrick District Council [1994]

1 WLR 1212

This case law gives clarity to the mobility test, twin-units must be movable when assembled as a whole.

In this case The Secretary of State has taken the view that, to satisfy the definition ‘a structure must be capable of being moved as a structure (that is, in one piece)…’ This view was upheld by the Court of Appeal. The reasoning appears perhaps most clearly from the judgment of Russell LJ

“In order to qualify for the description ‘caravan’ in section 29 it is therefore ‘the structure’ that has to possess two qualities. The first part of the section provides that it is necessary for ‘the structure’ to be designed or adapted for human habitation. This, in my view, clearly contemplates the structure as a whole, as a single unit, and not the component parts of it. The second quality which ‘the structure’ has to possess is mobility. The structure has to be capable of being moved by being towed or transported on a single motor vehicle or trailer. ‘The structure’ contemplated by the second part of the section is, in my judgment, precisely the same structure as that contemplated by the first part of the section, not a structure which has been dismantled before loading has taken place. In my view the second limb of the definition can therefore refer only to a whole single structure and not to component parts of it.” 

 

Notable Case Law on the Definition of a ‘Caravan’

R v Schonewille 11/3/11

The criminal appeal court decided that a caravan in West Lancashire was still a caravan even though it had been taken inside a building, had its wheels removed and been cemented to the floor.

West Devon 1/9/08 DCS No.100-057-608

An enforcement notice directed at the siting of a mobile home at a dwelling in Devon was quashed because the unit was permitted development. The council argued that although it was sited within residential curtilage, planning permission would still be required because what had occurred was operational development. The caravan had been brought to the site in numerous pieces. Accordingly, the council took the view that it would not meet the definition of a caravan in the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 as modified by the Caravan Sites Act 1968. The manufacturer gave evidence that the structure was fabricated in his factory but, after ascertaining that access to the site would be difficult in two sections, it was taken apart and transported to the site in smaller segments. It was then re-assembled into two sections which were bolted together, and which were capable of being lifted onto a trailer. The inspector considered that the provision in section 13 of the 1968 Act for the final two sections to be assembled on site had been met. He decided that the unit was a standard twin-unit caravan. The unit erected amounted to permitted development and met statutory provisions for caravans, he ruled. The appeal succeeded and the notice was quashed

Wealden D.C. v S.O.S. 21/10/82

Enforcement action was taken against a “caravan” which had had its wheels removed. The inspector at appeal had decided that the structure was now more akin to a portable cabin and that therefore the notice should be quashed as it ought to have alleged operational development. The local authority appealed and it was judged that the inspector could have varied the notice.

Barvis and Elitestone

In an enforcement case an inspector had concluded that caravans were not buildings. A court held that the correct tests as laid down in (see 4.3112) had been followed. It was argued that caravans were buildings as the 1960 Act referred to structures and because of the permanency of their occupation. It was held that it was contrary to the purpose of the Act and commonness to treat mobile caravans as buildings. In the present case the caravans lacked the degree of permanence and attached to constitute buildings

Derbyshire Dales 23/03/06 DCS No.100-041-670

An enforcement notice which claimed the unlawful residential occupation of a caravan. The appellants made a number of claims in the appeal, including the removal of the unit’s wheels and method of fixing to the ground, meant that it ceased to be a mobile home and therefore should be subject to the four year rule. The inspector accepted that the wheels had been removed but found that they could be replaced and the caravan could be transported. Furthermore, the degree of fixing was not strong and it remained a mobile home. However, it had been on the land for ten years and, therefore, was immune from action.

Pugsley v S.O.S. & North Devon D.C. 9/6/96

In addressing the mobility test it was confirmed that the fact that the narrowness of tracks and lanes at a particular site would prevent a structure being moved, was no impediment to the transportability criterion being satisfied.

Tyler v S.O.S. & Woodspring B.C 13/9/90 and Carter v S.O.S. & Carrick D.C. 14/3/94 In addressing the mobility; The transportability test is only satisfied if the whole of a structure and not its separated component parts is capable of being moved away on a vehicle.

East Northants D.C. 28/08/97 050-357-669

A composite mobile home type assemblage consisting of four sub-frames was considered to be incapable of being moved by road without elaborate and unusual arrangements.

South Ribble B.C. 24/4/96 054-710-121

Enforcement action was taken against a “caravan” at a farm. It was held that it was not operational development as it could easily be unbolted from a concrete base. In considering transportability it was considered that a porch did not have to be part of the single unit capable of being moved. This was a relatively minor extension and not part of the essential accommodation (the original mobile home).

Tandridge D.C. 6/11/85 049-772-288

A building operation was alleged consisting of the erection of a wooden building measuring 60ft. x 20ft. The appellant alleged that this was a mobile home for which permission already existed. An inspector considered that the component halves of the dwelling were too large and fragile to have been brought to the site, and were effectively incapable of being taken away again in a similar fashion. The allegation of a building operation was correct.

South Bedfordshire 18/8/99 DCS No.036-273-362

An inspector judged that the substitution of a slightly larger caravan for one that had been stationed lawfully was not a material change of use. The increased size did not alter the character of the land and the use remained unchanged.

Mid Sussex D.C. 21/2/96 DCS 056-146-061

In addressing the size test; The S.O.S considered that a wall-to-wall measurement was more appropriate than eaves to eaves measurement, and the units concerned therefore complied. He ventured the opinion that an exaggerated eaves overhang covering a porch or veranda built up from the floor level of the structure might lead to different assessment.

Conclusions on the Definition of a ‘Caravan’

Primarily a caravan must be movable and designed for human habitation.

A structure built on wheels comprising of a number of empty rooms but no kitchen, bathroom or facilities, is not a caravan. Caravan structures need not necessarily posses all the facilities for living but they do need to be designed for habitation, presumably with the facility for shelter from the elements, an area for rest and the ability to wash and cook.

The physical caravan structure, to be deemed a caravan, must satisfy two test criteria, a mobility and size test. Caravans designed to be constructed from two individual units must additionally conform to a construction test

The transport or mobility test. Conclusions.

The structure must be able to be moved. It doesn’t have to be directly pulled by a vehicle. The structure need not have wheels. It can be craned onto a trainer and transported from one place to another, not necessarily down the access drive to the plot on which it’s sited but rather down a hypothetic road. The application of the test maybe hypothetic but its potentiality must be demonstrated viable through either solid engineering details or demonstration. A practical demonstration should not be required if it can be shown the caravan was adequately designed and constructed for the process without complicated or elaborate procedures or the risk of damage to the structure. Twin-unit mobile homes, when assembled, to be deemed ‘caravans’ need to be movable as a single unit. So the mobility test applies to the assembled structure as well as the two separate halves.

parkhome-timbercabins-weatherboard

 

The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 (as amended) defines a ‘caravan’ as having the same meaning as for the purpose of the Part 1 of the 1960 Act as supplemented by sec.13 of the Caravan Sites Act 1968. The original definition of a ‘caravan’ in the 1960 Act includes ‘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 trainer) and any motor vehicle so designed or adapted, but does nit include – (a) any railway rolling stock which is for the time being on rails forming part of a railway system, or (b) any tent’.

 

Section 13 of the Caravan Sites Act 1968, under the heading ‘Twin-unit caravans’, states the twin-units are composed of not more than two sections, constructed or designed to be assembled on site by means of bolts, clamps or other devices. They shall not be treated as bot being a caravan as defined in the 1960 Act by reason only that they cannot be lawfully moved on a highway when assembled. The Act was amended through the Caravan Sites Act 1968 and the Social Landlords (permissible Additional Purpose) (England) order 2006 (definition of a caravan) (Amendment) (England) Order 2006 to the following dimension;

 

Length (excluding drawbar): 20 metres (65.616 feet)

 

Width: 6.8 Metres (23.309 feet)

 

Internal height: 3.05 Metres (10.006 feet)

 

The siting of a caravan within the curtilage of a dwelling house does not require express consent provided the use is incidental to the enjoyment of the dwelling and has not resulted in a material change of use of the land. For example, a householder may use a caravan as extra accommodation without planning permission, provided the occupants continue to use the facilities of the house. If, on the other hand, a caravan is there for some purpose not incidental to the use of the main house, for example, being inhabited independently of the main house, planning permission for the change of use of the land would usually be required. Additionally, if a caravan was being used in connection with some commercial purpose, the local planning authority could decide than an unauthorized change of use of the land was occurring, for which planning permission would be required.

Whether operational development has occurred.

The test for whether a structure placed on land has a sufficient degree of permanency to be judges ‘operational’ development in terms of sec.55 of the 1990 Act relate to the size, permanence and physical attachment. In terms of caravans, these tests have become overlain with the importations from the caravan related legislation. Any structure with falls outside of the portability and dimensional criteria of the definition of a caravan in the Caravan Sites Act 1960 and 1968 and the Amendment Order 2006, or has a sufficient degree of permanence through physical attachment to the ground or to main services, will involve operational development.

There are 3 key considerations in relation to whether a caravan constitutes development.

Does the structure meet the caravan tests; size, mobility and construction. Is the caravan being used for incidental purpose? Has development taken place? Does the development require planning permission?

Section 13 of the Caravan Sites Act 1968 is not as clearly worded as it might have been. Under the heading ‘Twin-unit caravans’ the section states that twin units are composed of not more than two sections, constructed or designed to be assembled on site by means of bolts, clamps or other devices.

The House of Lords decision in Wyre Forest D.C v S.O.S & Allens Caravans Ltd 22/2/90 is the standard authority for using the statutory definitions given above, and not the ordinary and everyday meaning of the word, to determine whether in planning terms a lawful ‘caravan’ has changed into something that is not a caravan. Subsequent to this judgment planning practice has tended to accept that if a caravan that is lawfully sited is substituted by another structure, which transgresses the transportability and/or dimensional criteria given, then planning permission is required. Many cases may be cited where this line has been tacitly accepted. However, the House of Lords judgment has never sat comfortably with the normal sec.55 test for development that require operations or a material change of use to have occurred, and some confusion exists as to the correct approach. The view that the statutory definition of a caravan was not relevant was illustrated in a case where an inspector rationalized that as there had been no material change of use involved when a smaller caravan was replaced by a larger one. He felt that no matter whether the statutory definition of a caravan had been transgressed or not, there had been no development (South Bedfordshire 18/8/99 DCS no. 036-273-362).

 

Until the above matter is resolved, the following subsections refer to situations where the approach as to whether development had occurred when caravan structures have been changed has followed the Wyre Forest approach, or alternatively where the sec.55 tests were relied on.

Whether operational development has occurred?

The tests for whether a structure placed on land has a sufficient degree of permanency to be judged ‘operational’ development in terms of the sec.55 of the 1990 Act have become overlain with importations from caravan related legislation.

Any structure that falls outside the portability and dimensional criteria of the definition of a caravan in the Caravan Sites Act 1960, 1968 and 2006 amendment, or has a sufficient degree of permanent through physical attachment to the ground or to main services, will invoice operational development.

An enforcement notice directed at the siting of a mobile home at a dwelling in Devon was quashed because the unit was permitted development. The Council argued that although it was sited within residential curtilage, planning permission would still be required because what had occurred was operation development. The caravan had been brought to the site in numerous pieces.  Accordingly, the Council took the view that it would not meet the definition of a caravan given in the Acts. The manufacturer gave evidence that the structure was fabricated in his factory but after ascertaining that access to the site would have been difficult in two sections, it was taken apart and transported to site in smaller segments. It was then re-assembled into two sections which where bolted together, and which were capable of being lifted onto a trailer. The inspector considered that the provision in section 13 of the 1968 Act for the final two sections to be assembled on site had been met. He decided that the unit was a standard twin-unit caravan. The unit erected amounted to permitted development and met statutory provision for caravans. The appeal succeeded and the notice was quashed (West Devon 1/9/08 DCS no. 100-057-608).

Enforcement action was taken against a ‘caravan’ which had had its wheels removed. The inspector at appeal had decided that the structure was now more akin to a portable cabin and that therefore the notice should be quashed, as it ought to have alleged operational development. The local authority appealed and it was judged that the inspector could have varied the notice. The case was remitted back to the S.O.S Wealden D.C v S.O.S 21/10/82.

In an enforcement case an inspector had concluded that caravans were not buildings. A court held that the correct tests as laid down in Barvis and Elitestone has been followed. It was argued that caravans were buildings as the 1960 Act referred to structures and because of the permanency of their occupation. It was held that it was contrary to the purpose of the Act and commonness to treat mobile caravans as buildings. In the present case the caravans lacked the degree of permanence and attachment to constitute buildings Measor v S.O.S & Tunbridge Wells B.C 6/8/98.

An enforcement notice, which claimed the unlawful residential occupation of a caravan was quashed by an inspector in Derbyshire Dales 23/03/06 DCS no. 100-041-670. The appellants made a number of claims in the appeal including the removal of the unit’s wheels and method of fixing to the ground meant that it ceased to be a mobile home and therefore should be subject to the four-year rule. Alternately, should this not be accepted, the caravan had been on the site for a period in excess of ten years and was still immune from action. The inspector accepted that the wheels had been removed but found that they could be replaced and the caravan could be transported. Furthermore, the degree of fixing was not strong and it remained a mobile home. However, it had been on the land for ten years and, therefore, was immune from action.

Whether a material change of use has occurred.

It was worth noting that there where a mobile home has had it wheels removed, or has acquired a degree of permanency through becoming physically attached to the ground, and is connected to main services, it can be distinguished from a caravan. It will become a building operation and be treated as a dwelling house to which policies.

Whether 1960 Act transportability criteria transgressed?

As already noted the 1960 Act refers to a caravan being capable of being towed or transported on another vehicle, and the 1968 Act infers that if a double unit were to be moved the fact that such a load could not be lawfully transported on the highway system is not relevant.

The court case Pugsley v S.O.S & North Devon D.C 9/6/96 also confirmed that the fact that the narrowness of the tracks and lanes at a particular site would prevent a structure being moved, was no impediment to the transportability criterion being satisfied. However, in Byrne v S.O.S & Arun D.C 27/2/97 it was considered that in applying the transportability test, one could have regard to the fact that although a structure could be capable of being placed on a vehicle is could be cracked or damaged in the process or being moved from where it was. These two views were compared in West Dorset D.C. 15/6/98 – 047-852-593 and an inspector felt that the judgment in Byrne was rather tentative and the Pugsley approach was to be preferred.

It is of note that in the East Dorset case described below, an inspector was not totally clear as to whether the transportability criterion applies to parts of the structure of the whole unit, and the Tandridge inspector was referring to the test being applied to the component halves. However, the view of the courts in Tyler v S.O.S & Woodspring B.C 13/9/90 and Carter v S.O.S & Carrick D.C 14/3/94 has been that the transportability tests is only satisfied if the whole structure and not it’s separate components parts is capable of being moved away on a vehicle.

A composite mobile home type assemblage consisting of four sub-frames was considered to be incapable of being moved by road without elaborate and unusual arrangements (East Northants D.C 28/08/97 050-357-669.

A building operation was alleged consisting of the erection of a wooden building measuring 60x20ft. The appellant alleged that this was a mobile home for which permission already existed, and Cardiff Rating Authority was used. However, an inspector thought that the times had changed since 1948. He considered that the component halves of the dwelling were too large and fragile to gave been brought to the site, and were effectively incapable of being taken away again in a similar fashion. The allegation of a building operation was correct Tandridge D.C 6/11/85 049-772-288.