Buying a Holiday Home: Can it ever be a Primary Residence?

 

holiday homes at the watermark cotswold water parkA Local Council can grant Planning Permission for holiday homes even where sites are outside of any recognised settlements and in an areas where unrestricted residential accommodation would not be appropriate.

Cotswold District Council has granted such planning permission for a significant number of new holiday homes over the last 10 years or so.

But, anyone with a holiday home already or is thinking about buying one should be aware of  important legally enforceable conditions

Background

Cotswold District Council to ensure compliance with the holiday home ethos insists on two important conditions:

The holiday home must not be used as a primary residence ( the owner must already have a property used for that purpose) and

The holiday homes must only be habitable 11 months of the year: no occupation is allowed between 5th January and 5th February

Compliance with planning permissions is by way of what is known as an Enforcement Notice.

An Enforcement Notice

Enforcement Notices are legal notices used to secure the discontinuance of an unauthorised development, or to secure compliance with the terms of an a planning permission. Failure to comply with an Enforcement Notice is an offence and may be subject to a fine.

Recent Case

The Sunday Times this week reported on a case where Cotswold District Council had issued Enforcement Notices to at least one resident on the Watermark Development in the Cotswold Water Park near Cirencester.

The allegation was that the  holiday home was being used as a main residence and therefore in breach of the original planning permission. The holiday home owner challenged Cotswold District Council's Enforcement Notice.

Planning Inspectorate Decision

The Planning Inspectorate is charged with hearing  appeals from Enforcement Notices.

In this case the Planning Inspectorate upheld the Enforcement Notice issued by Cotswold District Council.

The Planning Inspectorate found that the particular owners were in breach of the permitted use of their holiday lodge at the Cotswold Water Park as a holiday home.

Evidence

At the Inquiry, the owners of the property argued that they were “at leisure” for most of the year and should therefore be regarded as long-term vacationers

The Planning Inspectorate disagreed with this interpretation, and felt that a holiday home should not be occupied as permanent accommodation or as a primary residence. It also argued that one of the owners had contravened the terms of occupancy because he had apparently used the lodge as a workplace on occasions.

The Planning Inspectorate advised that the owners of the holiday home had six months to comply with the Council’s Enforcement Notice, but noted that the Council could exercise discretion and extend this period should the family need to make alternative arrangements for resettlement, particularly a change of school.

Lessons for Holiday Home Owners

What should other holiday owners make of the decision?

It is certainly a shot across the bows for other holiday home owners who may have their own views as to what constitutes holiday usage.

What is key in this case is that fact the holiday home owners had a child enrolled at a local school. This fact was regarded as key “evidence” that this was their principal home.

This clearly goes against the original intentions that holiday home owners should not be an additional burden on local amenities such as schools and doctors' surgeries

Fresh Guidelines

Cotswold District Council is in the process now of issuing fresh guidelines.

Cotswold District Council in what it regards as “a fair, consistent and transparent approach”, does not want to be too prescriptive in issuing a set time limit, but reiterates that properties on such developments are for “recreational” use only, and must not be a primary home.

Of paramount importance is that holiday home owners must not enrol children in local schools or register with a GP, or have business post delivered.

The Council would also prohibit some one who commutes to work or runs a business from the Cotswold Water Park, but would allow owners of holiday homes to check emails and make occasional work calls.

Conclusion

The new guidelines close any ambiguities which may have existed over schooling and medical care.

It is perhaps regrettable that the examples of what business activity would be allowed shows a Council a little out of touch with the realities of modern world.

Technology empowers people with the use of smart phones and broad band internet access to be in touch with their businesses 24/7 365 days of the year.

Even when on holiday!

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