Two stable blocks, turned into a 4-bed house without permission and lived in for four years is now perfectly legal says council

Stables at Alfie Acres in Little Downham that were converted to a house without planning permission, win legal right to...

Stables at Alfie Acres in Little Downham that were converted to a house without planning permission, win legal right to remain. Picture; GOOGLE - Credit: Archant

Two stable blocks put together and converted to a four-bedroom house can remain even though planning permission was never sought or approved.

East Cambridgeshire District Council issued a certificate of lawfulness to the house after applicant Caroline Scally produced evidence to show she had lived there for longer than for years.

And that means, under the law, the house can stay.

It means a secure future for Alfie Acres at Second Drove, Little Downham, whose Facebook page describes it as a pet rescue centre.

Planning officers concluded that Miss Scally had passed their ‘balance of probability’ test of living there after she produced receipts showing she had even paid council tax to the East Cambs authority.

Gas, electricity and other utility bills show how long she had been living there. And she has a TV licence registered to the same address.

The council says it was forced to discard any thoughts of whether the house provided sufficient parking, amenities or even whether the principle of it being in the countryside had been established.

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“This does not form part of the assessment for this type of application,” concluded planning case officer Molly Hood.

“The application is not assessed upon its merits but whether the use has been operating in excess of four years with no break during that time.”

On that basis – and using the dates from August 2016 to August 2020- it was clear the house had been occupied.

“This application provides a substantial amount of clear evidence to demonstrate the continuous four-year period of residential occupation,” says the council.

There was even a letter on file “confirming the registering of the property for council tax purposes”.

The council says part of its test is known as the Welwyn principle which stems from a Supreme Court ruling involving Welwyn and Hatfield Council.

That ruling considered whether there was any deliberate deception or deceit upon the part of the applicant.

In the case of Alfie Acres, concluded East Cambs officials, there was no deception since there was “clear evidence” to show Ms Scally had registered for council tax, utilities and a tv licence, all for the address.

“In addition, to the authority’s knowledge, a fraudulent application has not been made and the immunity period has been not invalidated by deceit,” says the council.