Planning expert's warning over container homes in Shropshire

A warning has been issued to Shropshire folk considering living in or running a business from a shipping container by a planning expert.

The shipping container home of TV presenter Max McMurdo
The shipping container home of TV presenter Max McMurdo

The robust metal containers, usually seen transporting goods on ships, are being seen as an increasingly popular option to be converted into shops, businesses and even homes.

There are currently 10 active planning applications relating to shipping containers in Shropshire, but Tracy Lovejoy, planning lawyer at Lanyon Bowdler Solicitors, insisted there are plenty of things to consider first.

She said: “It is relatively quick and easy to convert a container into a unit which can be used as a shop, cafe or a small home - and they are becoming increasingly common in a variety of settings.

“We have received a number of queries about installing and living in shipping containers - so-called ‘container homes’ - particularly on agricultural land or in rural areas here in Shropshire.

“There are obvious advantages to using ready-made containers over having to actually build a house or a business unit. However, a significant consideration is whether such a move requires planning permission.

“People come to us, as planning lawyers, for certainty as to whether container homes will deliver what they want - a home in a nice green area and perhaps a reduction of the some of the bureaucracy that comes with engaging the planning system.

Development

“To understand how planning controls relate to container homes, it is important to understand some basic planning principles. Planning controls, and therefore the need or otherwise to apply for planning permission, revolve around the concept of ‘development’.

“If one’s actions constitute ‘development’, planning permission will be required, unless specified exceptions apply. Another important principle is that planning permission can be granted individually, nationally, by virtue of permitted development rights or less frequently locally by a development and other types of orders.

“Development is defined as either operational development or a material change of use of an area of land often referred to as a planning unit. Operational development encompasses building, engineering, mining and other operations.

“How does this fit in with container homes? If you bring a container home onto your land, have you carried out development?

“Not necessarily, but it depends on what the landowner does with that container and whether it amounts to a material change of use of land, and therefore development.

“Also, depending on the size of the container and how long it is likely to be on the land, you can’t rule out the possibility of it being considered to be operational development.”

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