Policy changes on a national and local level have impacted on the assessment of parks, the feasibility of development and in turn park values. At a localised level, nearly all councils take the case law on board when establishing their opinion of fees, which is that the siting of a single or twin unit caravan is regarded as a change in use of land. As such fees should only be £462 regardless of the amount of units within an application.
In an attempt to increase council income, Cornwall Council have introduced a Fees and Charges Supplementary Guidance document which states that for the purposes of the fee regulations a static caravan or park home will be treated as a ‘building’ if the proposed development involves hard standings, connections to services, decking, extensions and remains in situ for more than 10 months per year. In these circumstances, the fee charged will be based on the erection of a building (and whether that building is commercial i.e. holiday use or permanent residency). Therefore as this proposal is for the siting of a number of units, the fee would be based on the number of units being proposed.
The legal definition of a Caravan is defined in the Caravan Sites and Control Act 1960 as:
“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 so designed or adapted, but does not include a) any railway, rolling stock which is for the time being transported on a motor vehicle or trailer; and b) any tent.”
The definition was further clarified by the Caravan and Sites Act 1968 which defines the detail of a twin caravan:
“A structure designed or adapted for human habitation which is composed or not more than two sections separately constructed and designed to be assembled on a site by means of bolts, clamps or other devices; and when assembled, physically capable of being towed by road from one place to another (whether by being towed, or being transported on a motor vehicle or trailer.”
Due to the reference of structures, Cornwall Council’s key argument is that the term “building” in section 336(1) of the 1990 Act has a wide definition which includes “any structure or erection”. When considering whether structures or erections are buildings you have to consider their size, permanence and physical attachment to the ground. The sheer size, weight and bulk of a structure are good indicators to determine whether something is a building. Permanence has to be construed in terms of significance in the planning context.
Whilst we are aware of several operators paying this fee to appease the council, the validity of the argument is frail. The fees could run in excess of £20,000 and also brings into play community infrastructure levy and section 106 fees. The impact on parks within the county is a reluctance for national operators to take on the burden of future development sites and a view to other comparable locations within neighbouring counties.