The growing popularity of platforms such as AirBnB has meant that even for owners of a single property, the option to utilise that home as an occasional holiday let has become increasingly appealing and achievable. However, the recent decision by a planning inspector in Devon could throw some doubt on to the ease with which that can be achieved.
The owner of Canonteign Manor, an impressive Grade I listed stately home near Exeter, decided that the large property, set in spacious grounds including a swimming pool, and offering six large bedrooms, plus staff accommodation, would lend itself perfectly as an occasional holiday let.
Intending to let the home to a maximum of 17 guests for periods of two to 14 nights, for no more than 90 days per year, the owner applied for a lawful development certificate to certify that the proposed use of his large manor house for short stay lets was lawful. However, the existing use of the property is that of a dwellinghouse which falls within class C3 of the Use Classes Order and moreover it is used as a family home.
The Council refused the application on the basis that there would be a material change of use, and the owner, consequently, appealed.
This isn’t, however, a clear-cut situation and every seemingly similar case would be judged on an individual basis, so it is worth understanding the details that proved important in this instance.
The inspector who was appointed to decide the appeal considered that the existing use of the property was of a low intensity, which was an integral part of its character. He said that vehicular traffic and activity within the gardens was currently low, and that if the property were to be occupied by up to 17 people, it would significantly change this because of multiple vehicle movements on changeover days and additional social and shopping trips being likely. He also felt that activities in the garden, including those associated with the outdoor swimming pool, would increase as a result of the guests making noise, engaging in games and playing music.
Finally, he concluded that the activities inside the dwelling would be far more intense than the existing use as a family home and that the loss of its low-key present use constituted a material change beyond that allowed for within class C3 of the Use Classes Order. Planning permission was, therefore, required for the proposed use.
Whilst not everyone considering a move in to holiday lets will have a grand country estate at their disposal, what this case does serve to provide is a useful reminder that planning permission may be required if the existing lawful use of the property is as a dwellinghouse only. It is not, however, a given that this will be the case and permission will not always be required. It is simply a matter of fact and degree in each case and will depend on the characteristics of the proposed use. Seeking expert legal advice, therefore, is imperative before embarking on plans of this kind.
Mark Turner, a solicitor in the Planning Team at FBC Manby Bowdler can be contacted on 01952 208412 or firstname.lastname@example.org.