Agricultural Occupancy Condition

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  • I am a farmer who is looking for a suitable country property to retire to. I know of such a property, which has an AOC. As a retiring farmer I would potentially meet the condition. The only query is the definition of "locality". The distance from my current farm to the property in question is 25 miles in a straight line. Is that too far?
  • DavesnaveDavesnave Forumite
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    FarmerT wrote: »
    I am a farmer who is looking for a suitable country property to retire to. I know of such a property, which has an AOC. As a retiring farmer I would potentially meet the condition. The only query is the definition of "locality". The distance from my current farm to the property in question is 25 miles in a straight line. Is that too far?

    I think you'll be OK, but I don't know for sure. I hope Planning Officer will enlighten us in due course.

    'Locality' has changed a bit over the years, as people now travel further to work, and with less individuals farming, the pool of qualifying buyers in a given area is less than it once was.

    I seem to remember a planning officer saying here, or elsewhere, that locality is now 'around' a 20 mile radius, so it seems likely they'd stretch this a bit for a genuine, ex-farming applicant.

    I'd speak informally with a planning officer in the area where the property is, and maybe get the council in your own area (if different) to confirm your current status, if you decide to put in an offer.

    Good luck!:)
  • paddyttpaddytt Forumite
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    Hi All.

    How flexible can the definition "working in Agriculture" be? I work for an Agri machinery supplier... Father was a farmer and I own a farm overseas which is rented. Would I be able to blag my way into an AOC house with 46 acres nearby?

    Thanks

    TT
  • DavesnaveDavesnave Forumite
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    paddytt wrote: »
    Hi All.

    How flexible can the definition "working in Agriculture" be? I work for an Agri machinery supplier... Father was a farmer and I own a farm overseas which is rented. Would I be able to blag my way into an AOC house with 46 acres nearby?

    Thanks

    TT

    What your father did is of no relevance in this regard, nor is your farm overseas, if the condition states 'in the locality,' as they usually do. This leaves your work with an agricultural machinery supplier, which makes you a salesperson, engineer, accountant, or whatever, but not someone engaged in farming/forestry as your main occupation.

    AS planning officer said in his last post : 'If you were to buy the house and move in, if you don't comply with the AOC, then the Council can serve you with a Breach of Condition Notice if they find out. Fines can be £1000 per day and there is no right of appeal - so you would need to vacate the house pretty sharpish!'

    While that is probably the most extreme scenario, people who occupy ag-tied properties illegally are subject to enforcement, so what might look like a bargain could end up being, at best, a waste of time.
  • I have just read the thread here and find it very interesting. I am looking for some advice:

    My parents purchased a small timber frame bungalow with aprox 3-4 acres of land and a brioler house. The house has a AOC on it. It was built in 1969 and my parents purchased it in 1980. They were not farmers of any sort, my father runs a engineering company and mother was a house wife, so not sure how they brought it and we lived in it? Anyway, we lived there for 4 years running the brioler house selling chicken to Sainsbury's. The chicken business failed and we moved out. The propery is still owned by my parents today and has been empty for the last 26 years. The bungalow has sat empty for all that time just used for storage or there junk! Also the brioler house has been used for a veriety of things, storage, my grandad sold second hand funiture from it, workshop, everything other than a brioler house.

    I have recently looked into getting the tie removed or being able to comply with it in some way. Does the fact that the property has been owned by someone that does not comply for the last 26+ years prove the same result as breaching the condition for 10 years?

    Also we have started the marketing process with some agricultural specilist agents and planning consultants, and have had alot of interest. Most of it from non compliers but we have had two offers from farmers. Would this void the whole process? i presume this proves the need in the area?

    Also would a florist comply as this is horticulture? and if my wife works in agriculture but i am the main bread winner i presume this is ok as mentioned by planning officer and the Wood case.

    i wish i found this thread before i started the process!
  • edited 6 December 2010 at 4:37PM
    lincroft1710lincroft1710 Forumite
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    edited 6 December 2010 at 4:37PM
    It is not ownership but occupation that is important. While your family were in occupation they were engaged in agriculture as they produced chickens in the broiler houses. When that failed they moved out, so bungalow was not being lived in by anybody, so no "occupancy" condition was breached. Whoever used the broiler house for commercial non agricultural purposes should have been paying non domestic rates and a flagrant breach of planning law would not necessarily mean the broiler house ceased to be designated as an ag building and the AOC would no longer apply.

    Offers from farmers proves there is still a demand for properties with AOCs.

    If by "florist" you mean someone who sells flowers in a shop, they certainly wouldn't comply. You would need to check the actual AOC regarding horticulture.
    If you are querying your Council Tax band would you please state whether you are in England, Scotland or Wales
  • planning_officerplanning_officer Forumite
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    Agree with Lincroft's good advice above. Just to add some more points:
    The property is still owned by my parents today and has been empty for the last 26 years. The bungalow has sat empty for all that time just used for storage or there junk!
    I would be more worried that after 26 years of being empty, the entire residential use of the building has been abandoned! Having said that, unless it's falling down or in a very state of poor repair, it's probably unlikely a local planning authority would take that extreme view.
    Does the fact that the property has been owned by someone that does not comply for the last 26+ years prove the same result as breaching the condition for 10 years?
    Nope, not at all. As Lincroft says, it's the use that's relevant, not ownership. There has not been a breach of condition for any amount of time, let alone 10 years.
    Also we have started the marketing process with some agricultural specilist agents and planning consultants, and have had alot of interest. ... we have had two offers from farmers. Would this void the whole process? i presume this proves the need in the area?
    In the nicest possible way, it looks like you're scuppered! If the two offers are reasonable, it shows clear demand for agricultural dwellings and the AOC would be highly unlikely to be lifted as a result.
  • RabbitMadRabbitMad Forumite
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    I posted my own thread http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?p=40159480 but realise my questions would be better asked here.

    I've recently inherited a house with an AOC. The relative that died had been a market gardener when permission (back in the early 80's) was granted but ceased within a year or two of moving in to the property. Since then he's had many occupations (all self employeed type work)

    Is he likely to have been in breach of the condition? If so does his >10 years continuous breach allow us to gain a certificate of lawful use?

    Richard Webster said it had to be 10 years continuous so a break would restart the clock. Does the death of the person in breach restart the clock?

    What would happen now if the council tried to take enforcement action (the person currently living there is not employed in agriculture and not related in anyway to the deceased)?

    In terms of value for probabte purposes I am hoping I can use the AOC to reduce the value and then get a certificate of lawful use after probabte has been granted to increase the value by 20-30%. Does this sound OK or will HMRC hammer me for this? (I shall be asking this to my solicitor but wanted the some opinions so I can understand the arguments for and against this position)
  • Richard_WebsterRichard_Webster Forumite
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    Richard Webster said it had to be 10 years continuous so a break would restart the clock. Does the death of the person in breach restart the clock?

    I think that as long as you can show the 10 continuous years breach of condition the death of the person shouldn't matter - but Planning_Officer will know more.
    RICHARD WEBSTER

    As a retired conveyancing solicitor I believe the information given in the post to be useful assuming any properties concerned are in England/Wales but I accept no liability for it.
  • planning_officerplanning_officer Forumite
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    Hi Rabbitmad - there could be a slight problem here. In normal circumstances, if an AOC had not been complied with for ten years, then it should be possible to obtain a Certificate of Lawful Use to show that the breach had been ongoing for that amount of time and need no longer be complied with. However, case law demonstrates that in order for an application for a Certificate of Lawful Use to be successful, the breach not only needs have been ongoing for 10 years (with no obvious breaks), it also has to be ongoing at the time the application was submitted. So, whilst I sympathise with your situation, unfortunately I fear that with the death of your relative, there is no longer a current breach of condition - so whilst it sounds like the condition has been breached for some years, an application could well fail due to the lack of current breach. This is a complicated situation, and you may want to talk to a specialist planning solicitor or barrister.
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