Living in my garden

This is the first in an irregular series from our Man with The Plan, lawyer Tim Driver of Berryman & Co, advising off-gridders of their legal rights. We invite enquiries from anyone in the UK – write to �manwithplan(at)www.off-grid.net”.

…and why not?

A reader writes: Hello �Man with the Plan�

Is it legal to live in a mobile home on a plot of land which was part of my garden in an urban area.(Croydon South London)?

The plot does not have any planning permission at present as I would need to purchase more land from a neighbour for space to build a bungalow.



From: Tim Driver [mailto:manwithplan@off-grid.net]
Subject: RE: request for advice

“I see that you say that the plot “was” part of your garden from which I draw the following possible conclusions:-

1. The plot no longer forms part of that or any other garden.

2. The plot was originally owned by you with the rest of the garden with possibly (as you describe it as a garden) a house which you owned and / or occupied but not longer do so.

“These two points may be important as planning permission will not usually be required to live in a mobile home (or any other caravan) in the garden (or curtilage) of a house where that use is ancillary to the use of that house. Hence for example planning permission would not be needed for such occupation by the child(ren) or elderly parent(s) of the house occupiers.

“However, this will only ever be the case where the use of the mobile home / caravan is genuinely ancillary. That means that if even a person who is a member of the house occupier’s family is using the caravan as a separate home (so is sleeping, showering, cooking,eating and using the lavatory in the caravan, and in some circumstances only doing some of these things) and is only using the house on some occasions, that would amount to a material change of use of the garden and therefore need planning permission.

“As you will, I hope, see from this, if you were living in a mobile home and your use of the mobile is not ancillary to the use of the house, that will amount to a change of use requiring planning permission. In addition, if you have sold the house and rest of the garden and retain only the plot, you have probably created what is known as a separate planning unit which no longer forms part of the curtilage of the house which will reinforce the need for planning permission.

“However, this does not mean that living in the mobile is not “legal” as such. In planning law it is not illegal to make a change of use or even to build something without planning permission. The local planning authority would have to take enforcement action (which might be the service of an enforcement notice followed possibly by a stop notice in this case) and you would then have the opportunity to appeal against an enforcement notice (although not a stop notice). Only if you lost that appeal (or the Council issued a stop notice) would the use of the mobile home become illegal and make you liable to prosecution and on conviction a fine or gaol or an injunction or some combination of all of these.

“All of this assumes that the Council would not be prepared to grant planning permission for the mobile home. They usually regard a mobile home in the same light as a house or bungalow but if the plot is large enough and has a reasonable access (and I note your reference to the need to buy more land), they might be prepared to grant such permission perhaps for the mobile on a temporary basis. This is something which you might want to discuss with the Council.

“Please note the following in connection with the above:-
The points set out above are intended to provide general information only and is not to be treated or relied upon as specific legal or commercial advice. Specific professional legal advice should be taken before any course of action is pursued in relation to any of the above points. Neither I nor my firm make any representations or warranties of any kind with respect to the accuracy, completeness or suitability for any purpose of the information in the above points. I and my firm expressly exclude all liability for any loss or damage howsoever arising from the information contained in the above points to the fullest extent permitted by law.”

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