‘Unauthorised dwelling’ granted planning approval after long-running dispute

Following a long-running legal battle, a UK couple have won their case to keep an ‘unauthorised dwelling’ that was originally built on their land without planning permission.

Mr Nicholas Horton and his partner, North Warwickshire, built the property in an isolated spot in 2009 – which is accessible only via a narrow farm road surrounded by trees and blocked by a locked gate wrapped in razor wire, according to reports.

The property, known as The Lake House, quickly attracted the attention of North Warwickshire Borough Council – which launched a legal battle against the couple on account of the fact the dwelling had received no prior planning approval.

In a letter addressed to Mr and Mrs Horton, the Council said: “The unauthorised development is inappropriate and unsustainable, and does not accord with the Council’s policies.

“In addition, the dwelling is of a wooden chalet style construction and is of poor quality design, while the dwelling house and associated land are located in the green belt and outside of any defined settlement boundary.”

The Council subsequently ordered Mr and Mrs Horton to demolish the property.

However, following a long-running dispute, the dwelling was approved by planning inspectors on 15 May 2017 – after evidence revealed that it had been in clear and safe use as a permanent residence for more than four years.

In a written report, the planning inspector said: “There is no dispute that the appeal building has been capable of permanent residential use, since the works carried out in Mr Horton’s residency at The Lake House have been corroborated by his wife, friends, family and tradesmen with varying levels of supporting evidence including, in some cases, evidence on oath, statutory declarations, receipts and photographs.”

Ultimately, the report noted that: “The council’s refusal to grant a certificate of lawful use or development in respect of the use of The Lake House as a single dwelling house was not well-founded and that the appeal should succeed.”

Commenting, North Warwickshire Council criticised the decision, and said that the fact that “use had occurred” within the last ten years was “unacceptable”.

Mr and Mrs Horton have refused to comment.

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Nigel is the Managing Partner and Head of Litigation and Dispute Resolution in the London office of Mackrell Turner Garrett.