Hartley v Minister of Housing and Local Government: CA 1970

A petrol station operated with an area to display and sell cars. Sales stopped in 1961 when the owner died. His son was thought too young and inexperienced son to be involved in car sales. Sales were resumed in 1965 when a new owner acquired the site. The court was asked whether that 1965 resumption amounted to an unauthorised change of use. The Minister and the Divisional Court held that it did. The appellant site owner submitted: ‘The intention is an essential element; and here the evidence supports the view that though the widow, because of her son’s youth and inexperience, told him not to sell cars, she would have liked the car sales to continue since the demand was there; so the evidence is that the car sales use was only temporarily suspended until such time as the then owners felt able to resume it.’
Held: The submission failed.
Lord Denning MR: ‘The question in all such cases is simply this: Has the cessation of use (followed by a non-use) been merely temporary, or did it amount to an abandonment? If it was merely temporary, the previous use can be resumed without planning permission being obtained. If it amounted to abandonment, it cannot be resumed unless planning permission is obtained. … Abandonment depends on the circumstances. If the land has remained unused for a considerable time, in such circumstances that a reasonable man might conclude that the previous use had been abandoned, then the tribunal may hold it to have been abandoned.’
Widgery LJ: ‘The substance of the defence of the appellant in this case must be that although it seems there had been no car sales use from 1961 to 1965, yet on a fair and commonsense view of the facts, the proper interpretation of those facts was that the original phase 1 use for car sales had never come to an end. It is in connection with that argument that the question of abandonment arises.
It has been suggested in the courts before, and it seems to me that it is now time to reach a view upon it, that it is perfectly feasible in this context to describe a use as having been abandoned when one means that it has not merely been suspended for a short and determined period, but has ceased with no intention to resume it at any particular time. It is perfectly true, as Mr. Glidewell says, that the word ‘abandonment’ does not appear in the legislation. We are not concerned with the legislation at this stage but merely with the facts of the matter. I cannot think of a better word to describe a situation in which the land owner has stopped the activities constituting the use not merely for a temporary period, but with no view to their being resumed. If that has happened, then, as a matter of fact, the use has ceased.’


Lord Denning MR, Widgery LJ


[1970] 1 QB 413


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedHughes v Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions and Another CA 19-Jan-2000
A house had been unused since 1960, and was bought in 1990. It had become delapidated and the applicant wished to rebuild. The applicant was entitled to permission only if he could show the original residential use had not been lost.
Held: The . .
CitedWhite v Secretary of State for the Environment CA 1989
W owned land which had been used for many years to store showground equipment over the winters. He applied for an existing use certificate. After refusing it, the authority issued enforcement proceedings. The inspector refused W’s appeal saying that . .
CitedSecretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Another v Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council SC 6-Apr-2011
The land-owner had planning permission to erect a barn, conditional on its use for agricultural purposes. He built inside it a house and lived there from 2002. In 2006. He then applied for a certificate of lawful use. The inspector allowed it, and . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 13 June 2022; Ref: scu.247935