Villages, Hamlets and Estate Agents’ windows

Two Planning Inspectorate decisions have shed some light on a couple of definitions that periodically crop up in planning matters.

When is a village not a village?

The answer, it seems, largely depends on the number of dwellings and the existence (or otherwise) of an operational church.

In case APP/B3438/W/18/3211000 (dated 25 January 2019), the Planning Inspector had to consider an appeal against the decision to refuse planning permission for two dwellings in the Green Belt. One of the issues was whether the appeal site (which was among a group of 18 residential dwellings known as Ridgeway) was a village rather than a hamlet and could therefore take advantage of the exception in paragraph 145 e) of the National Planning Policy Framework (“NPPF”).

In reaching a decision, the Inspector turned to the Oxford Dictionary definition of a village, namely "a group of houses and associated buildings, larger than a hamlet and smaller than a town, situated in a rural area".   A hamlet, by contrast, was defined as a settlement generally smaller than a village, and (in Britain) one without a church. While a church may once have existed in Ridgeway, it had since been replaced by a dwelling. There were also no other associated buildings that would justify defining Ridgeway as anything more than a hamlet. On this basis, the Inspector concluded that Ridgeway was not a village and thus did not meet the exception in paragraph 145 e) of the NPPF. The appeal was dismissed.

When is a window a ‘window display’?

The rarely considered matter of what constitutes a ‘window display’ has also received attention in a separate case, APP/G5180/X/18/3200975 (dated 11th Jan 2019).

This was an appeal submitted against the refusal by the London Borough of Bromley for a certificate of lawfulness of proposed use or development (“CLOPUD”) for the use of a property as two flats. The appellant submitted that the proposed use was permitted development by virtue of Class G (Part 3 of Schedule 2 to the General Permitted Development Order 2015 (“GPDO”)). This was because the ground floor window was not a "display window" but simply a “functional window” providing daylight to the internal area of the ground floor property.

In the absence of any definition of “display window” in the GPDO or elsewhere, the Inspector defined a it as a type of window of such a size, position and design that would normally enable people passing by to see a display inside. There was, however, no need for an actual display to be in place. The Inspector gave the example of a normal shop window displaying goods for sale. This wouldn’t cease to be a “display window” if the goods were removed. Furthermore, some shops or other premises such as cafés, hairdressers and estate agents had “display windows” without any merchandise being set out in view. Rather, the sole purpose was to enable people outside to see the interior of the premises.

Although a lack of shelving or other flat surface immediately behind a window wouldn’t necessarily prevent it from being a “display window”, the Inspector did identify sill level, window size, proportion of window to wall and position of the original window as significant in giving the window the character of a “display window”.

On this basis, the ground floor window in this case was a "display window" and the proposed development did not fall within the permitted development criteria under Class G. The appeal was dismissed.

Posted on: 15/02/2019

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

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