Moore v Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government


The Message

Planning permission for dwellings may not include holiday lettings.

The Case

Moore v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [18 September 2012] concerned whether the use of a dwellinghouse for commercial letting as holiday accommodation, constituted a material change of use in planning terms. Section 55 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 provides that the making of any material change in the use of any buildings or other land amounts to development and requires planning permission subject to certain exceptions.

St Audry’s had been an extensive hospital complex. It was closed and in 1999 planning permission was granted for it to be converted into an eight bedroomed dwelling. For the next eight years the property was occupied as a dwelling. Since May 2008 the property was let by its owner Ms Moore through a company for short term holiday lets.

Suffolk Coastal District Council issued an enforcement notice alleging a breach of planning control. The breach was stated to be a change of use without planning permission from a C3 dwellinghouse to commercial leisure accommodation, which did not fall within Class C3 in the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 as amended and was, therefore, “sui generis” use. The notice required that the property’s use as commercial leisure accommodation ceased.

Moore contended that there had been no breach of planning control, because the property’s use for holiday lettings was not materially different in character from the lawful use as a dwellinghouse. Moore appealed against the notice. The Secretary of State appointed an inspector to determine the appeal and the inspector dismissed the appeal, upholding the enforcement notice. He stated that in determining whether a material change of use has taken place, it is necessary to look at and compare the character of the current allegedly unlawful use with that of the actual previous lawful use.

Having considered the differences between the property’s current use and its use by a family /household, the inspector considered there were a number of distinct differences, including the pattern of arrivals and departures with associated traffic movements, the likely frequency of party type activities and the potential lack of consideration for neighbours with the current use. As a matter of fact and degree, the inspector considered the property’s use as part of Moore’s holiday letting business resulted in a use of the dwelling quite different in character from that of a private family dwelling. This change in character resulted in a material change of use that was development requiring planning permission. Since no permission was obtained, nor was it permitted development, there was a breach of planning control.

Moore appealed against the High Court’s dismissal of her appeal against the inspector’s decision. The Court of Appeal found in favour of the Secretary of State. Moore contended that where there is a permitted use as a “dwelling” or “dwellinghouse”, that use lawfully includes not only occupation by an individual or family as a permanent home, but also the dwelling’s use for holiday or temporary occupation, whether or not that occupation is as a result of commercial letting.

The Court stated that whether the use of a dwelling for commercial letting as holiday accommodation amounts to a material change of use will be a question of fact and degree in each case and the answer will depend on the particular characteristics of the use as holiday accommodation.

In this case, the inspector was correct to conclude that the large groups who occupied the property came together largely as a result of their shared interests such as yoga and cycling, but they did not occupy the property as single households. A requirement of Class C3 was that the use as a dwellinghouse was by a single household. The inspector correctly concluded that the holiday lettings were a material change of use from the permitted use as a dwellinghouse. Moore’s complaints about the form of the enforcement notice were also dismissed.