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Definition

Chattels or buildings

Poultry units

R (Save Woolley Valley Action Group) v Bath and North East Somerset Council
[2012] EWHC 2161 (Admin)

Summary

The local planning authority had misdirected itself in deciding that poultry units were not "development" within s55 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The Council had not considered the relevant authorities when concluding that the units were chattels, not buildings.

Facts

A number of poultry units were each 20m by 6m by 3.5m, housed 1,000 laying hens and weighed about 2 tonnes. The units were not fixed to the ground but were on metal skids to allow them to slide along the ground when pulled by a tractor, although in high winds they could be fixed to the ground by metal spikes. The intention was to move them every 8 weeks within their 1-2 acre paddocks. The units could be assembled in a “couple of days” by a “skilled team”, and largely dismantled in 3 – 4 hours. Power to each unit was provided by a portable generator, and mains water supplied by a hosepipe connection.

The units were not moved around the paddocks as originally envisaged and there was evidence that none of the units had been moved since being placed in position.
The Council decided that based on the units size, permanence and physical attachment to the ground, as a matter of fact and degree, the units did not constitute development. The Council noted that the dimensions of each unit were almost the same as the dimensions of a twin-unit caravan and concluded that the mobile poultry units were “chattels, they did not constitute development and they could not be subject to an EIA.

The Claimant applied for a judicial review and submitted that the mobile poultry units were “development” within the meaning of s55 of the 1990 Act and that the cumulative effect of constructing the stock pond and the poultry units should have been considered in the Council’s screening opinion.

Decision

The Council had erred in law in taking to narrow an approach to the meaning of “development” in s55. "Building" in s336(1) of the 1990 Act had a wide definition which included “any structure of erection”. Here account should have been taken of the size and weight of the poultry units.

The court further held that the Council had not considered the relevant authorities when concluding that the units were chattels, not buildings, by reason of the fact that they were capable of being moved around the site. Moreover, on the issue of permanence, the Council did not direct itself correctly.

The court also held that “building operation” within s55(1A) is inclusive, not an exhaustive definition, and that the Council erred in failing to consider whether the poultry units came within the residual category in s55(1) of “other operations in, on , over or under land”.

Conclusion

The Council's screening opinion was inadequate and needed to be carried out afresh taking into account its decision in relation to the poultry units.


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