A caravan park in the Fens has won its battle with East Cambridgeshire District Council to expand by providing 10 holiday lodges.
Riverside Park, New River Bank, Littleport, successfully appealed to the Planning Inspectorate after the council refused them permission.
The inspector who granted consent said the main issues raised were whether the proposal was justified and the effect of the proposal on the character and appearance of the area.
He said the lodges would make use of part of a field to the side of the caravan site, which was formerly used for growing potatoes but has since been subdivided.
The inspector said the area “is an attractive destination for overnight stays” and there was a general need for additional tourist accommodation, particularly within the hotel, caravan, and camping sectors.
Planning policies support proposals for new or extended caravan-lodge sites, subject to a number of criteria, said the inspector.
“Amongst other considerations, the policy requires that the need for the additional accommodation can be justified, and that there is no significant adverse effect on the character and appearance of the area,” he felt.
He said the site is within easy reach of Littleport, the river and local footpaths, “so occupiers of the proposed accommodation would be able to make use of local facilities, and easily explore the surrounding rural landscape.
“Additional holiday accommodation here could have benefits for local businesses and help support local services in Littleport”.
He said a ‘needs and benefits report” suggested nearby sites had a relatively small number of static caravan/lodge type accommodation.
“Owing to commercial sensitivities, the information provided by other sites was limited, but the responses received suggest that there is a steady and increasing demand for the type of accommodation proposed, with some nearby sites considering expanding their offer of holiday lodges,” he said.
“Taking into account the above considerations, I am satisfied that, in general terms, the need for additional holiday accommodation in this location can be justified, and the council has raised no concerns in this regard.
“However, there is disagreement as to whether the need for the additional accommodation can be justified in this particular case, given the existing site history.”
The inspector pointed out that Riverside Park was initially established as a site for touring caravans in the 1980s, but over time it has changed to what is now predominately a residential park home site.
The number of static caravans on the site has incrementally increased, and through a certificate of lawfulness of existing use their unrestricted, year-round occupation has been established.
He said the owners of the site had confirmed that, of the 49 units, just seven are currently used as holiday accommodation, with the remaining units in permanent residential use.
“This shift away from holiday use has raised concerns as to whether the proposed use would be viable,” he said.
However, he said the new owner Thomas Murphy – who took over in 2016 – had found there was already a considerable amount of residential use on the site, and that the earlier move to residential use may well have been facilitated within a planning permission context which was less restrictive in relation to holiday accommodation than would be imposed now.
Demand for holiday accommodation
“The residential use of the existing site is now well established, but this does not necessarily indicate that there is no demand or justification for holiday accommodation here,” said the inspector.
“Indeed, the evidence provided in the needs and benefits report suggests that there is currently demand for holiday accommodation of the type proposed in this area, and that this demand is anticipated to continue into the future.
“The council has indicated that a number of the existing units are on the market. Sales information indicates that they are being marketed as park homes or mobile homes, rather than being targeted as holiday accommodation.
“However, as they are in private ownership, the site owner has limited control over their resale to other individuals, or their existing or future use.”
The proposed lodges would be owned by Riverside Park and would be rented out by them.
“In this way, this part of the site would be operated as a purely holiday business, rather than the units being sold privately, as has previously happened on the existing part of the site.,” he said.
“As such, the proposal would effectively represent a diversification of the existing business, in a location which is appropriate for tourist accommodation.”
He added: “The detailed design of the lodges has not been provided, but the appellant has stated that the buildings would be similar to those on the existing site.
“Given the surrounding context, with two caravan sites nearby, such buildings would not be an unexpected form of development here.
Effect on character and appearance of area ‘acceptable’
“In light of the above considerations, I conclude that the effect of the proposal on the character and appearance of the area would be acceptable.”
The inspector added: “The proposed development would involve the loss of a small area of former arable land, adjacent to the existing caravan park and agricultural yard.
“The proximity of neighbouring uses, including the road and residential properties, means that the site and adjacent fields are likely to be subject to noise and visual disturbance.
“The area has little potential to be used by foraging or roosting geese and swans, so any disturbance to these species resulting from the proposed development is likely to be minimal.”
The inspector said he had imposed a condition restricting use to of the proposed units to holiday accommodation only, and requiring a register of occupation to be maintained,” he said.
“This is necessary to ensure that the units are not used for permanent residential use, which would be unacceptable in this countryside location and would raise additional concerns in relation to flood risk.”
I have used wording contained in Local Plan Policy EMP9, which sets out the Council’s approach to He concluded: “I have found that the need for the proposed change of use can be justified, and the effect on the character and appearance of the area would be acceptable.
“The proposal complies with the development plan and the framework, and no other considerations outweigh this finding.”
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