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Agricultural Occupancy Condition

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  • DavesnaveDavesnave Forumite
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    Apologies as we did miss this one - looks like you have resolved it though re where such details are held

    Yes, it's been potentially helpful to me too, as I own a property made up from an ag-tied house and some land + outbuildings that were added later.

    Because the parts are contiguous, I've always considered the property as a whole, but for planning purposes it's clearly in two parts, which might be advantageous in some circumstances.
  • edited 1 December 2015 at 12:16PM
    TightwalletTightwallet Forumite
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    edited 1 December 2015 at 12:16PM
    However from a solicitors website...
    Mr and Mrs S bought 22 hectares of the farm and farmhouse in 1994. Mrs S contributed less than 20% of one full-time worker to the farm and the annual accounts of the farm showed a loss. Mr S did not work on the farm and was a successful business man. In 2012, Mr and Mrs S applied for a CLEUD for continued use of the farmhouse without compliance with the planning condition of a planning permission granted in 1974 to construct a dwelling on an 83 hectare. The relevant planning condition stated:

    "The occupation of the dwelling shall be permitted to persons employed or last employed solely or mainly and locally in agriculture as defined by section 290(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, or in forestry and the dependants (which shall be taken to include a widow or widower) of such persons."

    The application was made on the basis that the planning condition had not been complied with for over 10 years and was immune from enforcement and lawful because:

    Mrs S did not consider herself to be an agricultural worker as she had made no profits for over 10 years
    Mrs S did not financially contribute to the family so her husband and children were not dependants. At appeal for non-determination the inspector held that the condition had not been breached
    Mrs S appealed to the High Court who dismissed her appeal. The court held that a dependant does not necessarily have to be financially dependent on the agricultural worker, the worker can be providing subsistence and support to the dependant of a non-monetary nature. Therefore, on the facts of this case her husband and the children were her dependants. Consequently, there had been no breach of the planning condition so there was to be no Certificate of lawfulness.
  • DavesnaveDavesnave Forumite
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    Mrs S appealed to the High Court who dismissed her appeal. The court held that a dependant does not necessarily have to be financially dependent on the agricultural worker, the worker can be providing subsistence and support to the dependant of a non-monetary nature. Therefore, on the facts of this case her husband and the children were her dependants. Consequently, there had been no breach of the planning condition so there was to be no Certificate of lawfulness.

    Which post is this related to? Is it a landmark judgement setting a precedent? I'm confused!
  • Deb080181Deb080181 Forumite
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    Sorry to ressurect an old thread but after spending an hour or so reading this I thought it would be the best place for advice.

    My husband and his ex-wife acquired planning permission for our bungalow with AoCs attached. At the time, the bungalow was part of the ex-wife's stepfathers farm and they had both worked on it for over eight years.

    Fast forward another seven years and they are now divorced, with my husband recieving the bungalow in his divorce settlement. The ex-wife's stepfather and her mother are also divorced, and as a result there is no longer any relationship with the farm that the bungalow was originally part of. Furthermore, there is no land at all with our bungalow, and no other farms in the area (they are all livery yards). We have asked the council if, due to the bungalow having no land, neither of us working in agriculture and there being no farms nearby who employ staff, we could have the tie lifted (we do not want to sell, we simply do not want to worry about breaching the conditions). They refused this, stating that my husband knew the situation when he bought the house.

    We have now had a letter from the council asking us to confirm that we are complying with the AoCs. I am not sure how to respond - does the "previously worked" apply to my husband as he did work the farm prior to the divorce and he has never left the bungalow; or, since he is now in different employment, are we in breach? If so, what is the ultimate consequence of this? Will they make us sell the house for a much reduced rate and essentially make us homeless due to a situation that my husband couldn't avoid? What is stopping somebody buying the property and then quitting their job (seeing as there is no land here to farm) and essentially being in the same situation as we are now?

    I am praying that the council are sensible in these matters, but the planning officer does refer to breaches and enforcement action, and it's very worrying :( We are only 2.5 years short of the ten year Holy Grail :(

    I hope someone can advise.
  • edited 27 May 2016 at 12:28AM
    DavesnaveDavesnave Forumite
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    edited 27 May 2016 at 12:28AM
    Deb080181 wrote: »
    We have now had a letter from the council asking us to confirm that we are complying with the AoCs. I am not sure how to respond - does the "previously worked" apply to my husband as he did work the farm prior to the divorce and he has never left the bungalow; or, since he is now in different employment, are we in breach?

    Hello. You don't quote the exact wording of your tie, and as they can differ, I can only answer with regard to the most usual form, which is:

    "The occupation of the dwelling shall be permitted to persons employed or last employed solely or mainly and locally in agriculture as defined by section 290(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, or in forestry..."

    I think it's no accident this doesn't say 'previously worked.' It says, 'employed or last employed,' the latter implying that no other work has been taken up, so it could relate to a period of unemployment or retirement. In other words, it's been deliberately worded to exclude situations such as you describe where the occupant(s) give up agriculture and pursue other types of employment.

    If your tie is significantly different, then perhaps it needs to be examined by a suitably qualified solicitor.

    This is obviously not what you want to hear, but I can only give an honest answer, and you should bear in mind that it's an opinion and I'm not legally qualified.

    As to what the council might do, I'd speculate that had you not contacted them re lifting the tie, they might have let sleeping dogs lie, as many councils have higher priorities these days than seeking out non-compliant owners of AOCs. Indeed, I'd go so far as to say my own council would rather not know, as there are so many breaches they could not pursue them all at a sensible cost.

    However, each council is different, so it's possible that having been alerted, compliance from you will be sought, or a request for you to market the property will be made.

    The council don't decide the price at which ag-tied properties are sold; the market does that. However, they may refuse to lift a tie, or challenge genuine intent to sell if they feel unsuccessful marketing is due to an inflated asking price.As to being made homeless, when it comes to selling, you are surely in the same position as the rest of us who have ag-tied houses, which is that the house itself will probably realise about 25-30% less than a comparable one without a tie. It's still a valuable asset.

    One last thought: as both of you have worked in farming before, only one need now do so again to comply with the tie. If one of you were to take up a farming job, perhaps for a relatively short period and at a modest rate of pay, you could truthfully say that you are complying.
  • Deb080181Deb080181 Forumite
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    Yes, it does say "last worked" - my apologies, I didn't have it in front of me when I wrote the original post.

    Thank you for your reply - it's really helpful. I hope that we get a planning officer who sees us as a low priority!
  • DavesnaveDavesnave Forumite
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    Deb080181 wrote: »

    Thank you for your reply - it's really helpful. I hope that we get a planning officer who sees us as a low priority!

    If they decide to enforce, and you therefore decide to sell, you'll get plenty of time. Some authorities consider 12 months on the market as a fair test of saleability, but 18 months isn't unheard of. I'd say you have 2 years as a minimum to decide on a strategy.

    Besides, all types of enforcement can take years to play out, and councils usually don't want to go for eviction till the 11th hour. I'd guess they'd go to fines first.

    Finally, besides taking professional advice, which might be wise, I note your emphasis on your locality having only livery yards. These days, the "locality" could be interpreted as having a radius of 20 miles or so, since so many people in agriculture now travel significant distances to work. That might help.
  • We only have 2.5 years until it becomes ten years since the breach - if they take a while to enforce and then it takes two years to sell, we could easily be past the ten year period. Does this count, or will the ten year "Holy Grail" not apply if they've started investigations and enforcement before this?
  • edited 4 June 2016 at 6:04AM
    DavesnaveDavesnave Forumite
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    edited 4 June 2016 at 6:04AM
    The 10 year rule 'clock' stops whenever the breach is first notified, assuming that it is then subsequently proven. Not correct, see below.
    As I've said, it would be wise to take some specialist advice and/or seek a way to ensure compliance, at least until the 10 years is up.
  • Hi Deb and Dave


    I agree with Dave's posts above, other than when the 10 year clock stops - that would only stop if and when an Enforcement Notice or Breach of Condition Notice is served, not when investigations begin. I reckon you could string this out to 10 years, particularly as the Council presumably have no idea how long you've been in breach of the condition.


    Is your husband's new line of work nothing to do with agriculture?


    I would probably just keep quiet and hope the case gets put to the bottom of the pile - enforcement cases can go for months without anyone picking up the file again, due to pressures of other cases (I know - I spent several years in planning enforcement!). That would at least bide some time but might not help with your nerves.


    If you end up having to reapply for planning permission to get the tie lifted (i.e. before 10 years is up) - then you will need to have marketed the property at a realistic price for some time. Like Dave says, a reduction of 30% off open market value and for 12 months would probably suffice - but check your LPA's policies. They may have a specific policy that says 2 years, for example, or another time period. It would need to be properly advertised too - in national farming press, etc (not just the local rag!).


    To be brutally honest, your previous case for applying to have the tie lifted (the bungalow having no land, neither of you working in agriculture and there being no farms nearby who employ staff), was quite weak and wouldn't be sufficient to remove the tie. You need to show that there is no demand for an ag-tied dwelling - unless it's been adequately marketed, and no serious interest shown, any other argument is just speculation.


    One interesting case I dealt with a few years ago was regarding a huge ag-tied dwelling, now worth over £1m (I think it was small when built, but had been extended over the years - some with and some without planning permission). Plus the area had hugely increased in value. That went to appeal and the planning appeal inspector stated that even if the house was marketed at 30% off, no agricultural worker would be able to afford it, so he just said it was no longer a viable agricultural workers' dwelling, and allowed the appeal. Only possibly relevant to your case if the house is particularly large or worth a lot?


    You have to remember, too, that the bungalow would never had been given planning permission if the ag-tie had not been attached to it - so Councils will always take a lot of convincing to remove them. And of course, if there is a demand for such dwellings in an area, if the Council allow one to be removed, it means someone else will be able to show a new dwelling is required, with an ag-tie. So the Coucnil would have to grant planning permission for a completely new house!


    Hope that helps a bit.
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