It’s not unusual for an entire court case to focus on the meaning of a single word – in the Hibbitt case, “conversion”.

The issue was the permitted development right in England to change the use of an agricultural building to a dwelling house, including the building operations reasonably necessary to “convert” the building.

There’s no equivalent PD right in Scotland, but development plan policies on rural development often indicate permission will be granted for a conversion.

The judge noted that a conversion is conceptually different to a rebuild. It is a matter of planning judgment where the line is drawn. In this case, the development was in all practical terms starting afresh, with only a modest amount of help from the original agricultural building. It was not a conversion, and therefore outwith the scope of the PD rights.