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Hotel Container Refusal A Planning Permission Reminder

A fresh reminder of the importance of seeking planning permission when planning to buy a used shipping container for household or business use has been provided by the tale of a hotel that has been told to relinquish its storage facilities.

As Surrey Live has reported, the Gorse Hill Hotel near Woking installed two used containers in its grounds in May 2019 for storage purposes. Since then, they have been used to keep tables, chairs and other equipment.

For a long time, there was no problem. Then, in December 2021, Woking Borough Council received a complaint about the containers from a neighbour of the hotel, a Grade II listed mansion house. Having been located in the grounds with no comment for over two years, suddenly each container had become as unwelcome a metal object in Woking as a Martian cylinder on Horsell Common.

Faced with being told the remove the containers, the hotel retrospectively applied for a lawful development certificate in January. It argued that the containers did not constitute development as such because they were “ancillary to the site’s use,” were not a “building” and did not change the use of the land.

However, the council said the “degree of permanence” of the containers, plus their size and weight, meant they had to be treated as buildings and thus subject to planning permission rules. With this permission not being granted, the hotel now faces legal sanctions unless it removes the containers in line with an enforcement notice issued by the council.

The Gorse Hill Hotel is not alone in finding itself unable to get retrospective permission for re-used containers that have been on its land for years.

A more stark case is that of Stephen Gibbons, a 65-year-old who has lived in a home made from recycled containers at a farm in Gwent for 30 years.

Newport City Council has ruled he changed the use of the land on which the home stands without planning permission and has ordered him to vacate it.

The Planning Inspectorate has subsequently upheld the council’s case against Mr Gibbons.

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