Property developer wins 'barn' case
A property developer has won his battle to outwit planners by building a £500,000 home disguised as a barn on protected Green Belt land.
Alan Beesley and his wife, Sarah, had faced eviction from their two-storey house but the Court of Appeal restored a ruling that the couple had acted within the law.
Mr Beesley was granted permission to build a barn for agricultural use only but fitted it out as a luxury house complete with three bedrooms, a study, bathroom, lounge, reception area, storeroom and gym.
From the outside, the property, North Brook Meadow near Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, looks like any other hay barn with a curved roof, no windows, and surrounded by farmyard machinery.
The couple used a legal loophole which grants a certificate of lawfulness to homeowners who have lived in a property for more than four years - even if they failed to obtain the correct planning permission.
High Court judge Mr Justice Andrew Collins branded the deception a fraud in a ruling in April last year and gave Welwyn Hatfield Council the chance to decide whether or not they wanted to evict the pair.
But a panel of three appeal judges ruled the couple were within the law and had achieved immunity for the use of the building as a dwelling.
Lord Justice Mummery said in his ruling: "It is a surprising outcome which decent law-abiding citizens will find incomprehensible: a public authority, deceived into granting planning permission by a dishonest planning application, can be required by law to issue an official certificate to the culprit consolidating the fruits of the fraud."
Lord Justice Richards said the case was a lesson for local planning authorities.
"When checking whether a building has been built in accordance with planning permission and is being used in accordance with the permitted use, they need to look carefully at the inside of the building and not just at the exterior.