The Supreme Court gave its decision in this case on 6 April. Mr Beesley had obtained permission for a hay barn but kitted it out as a house. He did not register for council tax and nor did he get the building inspector in on completion. Four years after he moved in he applied for a certificate of lawfulness claiming that the use was immune as the change to a dwelling had taken place more than four years previously.
There are some lengthy paragraphs on this, rather labouring the point that there has to be a change of use of the building; the barn had never been used as a barn, so there was no change. But the real issue, and difficulty, is that that the Justices decided that the deceit by Mr Beesley - they found that he had never intended to use it as a barn - meant he could not take advantage of the limitation period. In other words, he was profiting from his own wrong, a doctrine which they said had a place in planning.
So where does this leave the innocent purchaser of a property which has been erected under a permission obtained by deceit? Up until now, the purchaser simply looks at the permission and works on that basis. It would seem that now it is important to make enquiries of the vendor. Perhaps there are limits, and certainly this case was extreme, but it also makes it important not to have errors in the planning application documents.