Business Clinic: How can I change holiday cottage planning?

Whether you have a legal, tax, insurance, management or land issue, Farmers Weekly’s Business Clinic experts can help.

Here, Fred Quartermain of law firm Thrings advises on changing holiday homes into dwellings.

Q I have three-holiday cottages in a row on a working farm. They were originally calf sheds.

Twenty years ago they were converted into the holiday homes and 10 years ago I got the closure of two months a year lifted so I could rent them for 52 weeks a year, with a 28-day let length restriction.  

Now I want to turn one into a dwelling to live in and still operate the other two as holiday cottages.

The planning office has said no.

What can I do?

A It is not unusual for local authorities (LA) to impose this sort of restriction where the LA takes the view that permanent residential use is contrary to local or national planning policies. 

Fred QuatermainFred Quartermain
Solicitor and planning specialist, Thrings

Often these restrictions are coupled with a requirement to maintain a record of all the occupants of the units and to disclose those on request of the LA, although that doesn’t seem to be the case here.

See also: Business Clinic – is my son a partner in the farm business?

It is often possible to successfully remove these restrictions; the precise approach for this depends on whether the restrictions were imposed by conditions, or via an obligation.

As a general rule, either route will require a formal application to the LA supported by evidence as to why the restriction is no longer required.

You say the LA planning team has already said no to your request. Depending on the type of application you made, there may be an avenue for appeal so it may be wise to seek specific advice.

The merits of such an appeal will depend on the LA’s reasons for refusal and the local planning policy position.

Residential use

An alternative to the variation of the existing permission would be to consider a new full planning application for a residential use.

This would require the LA to consider your application afresh. As a part of this application, it may be possible to argue there is no material difference between the way the unit is used as a residential dwelling and its use as a holiday let.

The point has been considered by the courts and it has been confirmed that where a holiday let is occupied by family groups who, during their stay, constitute a single household, it is likely that the manner of occupation will remain the same.

As a result it will fall within the same class of use as a residential dwelling.

Planning policies

The LA will apply up-to-date local and national planning policies and take into account any other material considerations in making a determination on the appropriateness of the use itself rather than on the removal of the condition.

The material considerations to be considered by the LA will include things such as the availability of social infrastructure, which is more likely to be used by people occupying a property as their primary accommodation in comparison with holiday lets.

As with all planning applications, there is an appeal process for those who are refused permission.  We would recommend you seek advice from a planning consultant or solicitor before taking this route.

If a holiday let restriction is not complied with, the LA may choose to take enforcement action to prevent the breach from continuing. 

Assuming the restriction has been imposed by way of a condition, it is possible for the breach to acquire immunity from enforcement from long use.

The relevant period here is 10 years and it seems from your question that the breach has not yet commenced.

Again, there is an appeal process in relation to enforcement action, but we would recommend you seek advice as soon as possible if the LA does take action.

Do you have a question for the panel?

Outline your legal, tax, finance, insurance or farm management question in no more than 350 words and Farmers Weekly will put it to a member of the panel. Please give as much information as possible.

Send your enquiry to Business Clinic, Farmers Weekly, RBI, Quadrant House, The Quadrant, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5AS.

You can also email your question to

Futures markets and commodity risk management online course:

  • Risk management strategies for a more predictable financial performance
  • Educated conversations when collaborating with your advisors
  • Negotiate better prices with your grain merchants

View course