Brief caravan history in ruling
A senior judge has written a brief history of the caravan after the Court of Appeal ruled on a planning dispute.
Lord Justice Rix added a five-line footnote to a written judgment, following a hearing in London, explaining the derivation of "caravan". He said "caravan" was derived from the Persian "karwan" and said its first meaning was a "company of merchants".
Three appeal judges had analysed a dispute - involving a planning authority and a mother-of-three living in a caravan on green-belt land in Waltham St Lawrence, Berkshire - which centred on the meaning of the word "caravan".
The Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead claimed that Bonnie Smith had breached a court injunction by moving another "caravan" on to the site where she lived. Ms Smith disagreed. She said the additional "structure" was not a "caravan" but a "portacabin...on wheels", which was not lived in but used as a shower and toilet block.
A High Judge had ruled in favour of Ms Smith. Lord Justice Rix, Lord Justice Etherton and Lord Justice Patten dismissed the council's appeal against that ruling.
"I am intrigued to find that, etymologically speaking, 'caravan' is derived from the Persian 'karwan', so that its first meaning is a company of merchants or pilgrims travelling together," added Lord Justice Rix, at the end of the written appeal court judgment.
"Hence the important concept of mobility: but in its origin at any rate a caravan could not come as a single unit, and it does not seem that there was any conception of the caravan being a place of abode. On the contrary, a 'caravanserai' (Persian 'karwansaray') is an Eastern inn with an inner court where caravans rest."
Appeal judges said the Waltham St Lawrence case centred on the meaning of "caravan" - defined by the 1960 Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act as: any structure, apart from a tent or railway rolling stock, "designed or adapted for human habitation which is capable of being moved".
They said Ms Smith's "occupation" of a green-belt site was in breach of planning control and in 2009 a judge had granted an injunction forbidding her from "allowing further caravans to be brought onto the land" pending any trial.
In December, the council failed to persuade a High Court judge that Ms Smith had moved another caravan on to the site and breached the injunction. Mr Justice Globe concluded that the "structure" near Ms Smith's home was not a caravan because it was "neither designed nor adapted for human habitation". The Court of Appeal upheld his ruling.