Getting good advice on agricultural occupancy conditions

AGRICULTURAL occupancy conditions arise where residential developments are approved as an exception to normal planning policy - normally within open countryside, where new houses are generally restricted. 

Commonly, where new houses are allowed in the countryside, the developer must provide strong justification to the council that the house is essential to the proper functioning of a farm or rural business. There are very strict tests, so such conditions would only generally arise with the knowledge and intention of the person making the planning application.

Once the conditions are imposed however, councils are understandably wary of agreeing to their removal, and such a proposal can be difficult to justify.

Valuation advice should always be sought on the implications of selling straight away or trying to remove occupancy restrictions first. This is because each situation is different and there are other considerations to factor into any strategy, such as Capital Gains Tax or Agricultural Property Relief under the Inheritance Tax regime.

For example, removing a restriction on a farm cottage on a 320-hectare (800 acre) farm which has an existing farmhouse (unrestricted) will result in an insignificant gain or uplift in value if the farm is sold as a whole. 

If the property has a strong residential bias, it is worthwhile formulating a strategy for the removal of the occupancy restriction prior to selling, as the presence of the condition can deter purchasers because of financing difficulties in restricted properties. 

Many councils, particularly in rural areas, have adopted dedicated policies, setting out the means by which the removal of an occupancy condition can be sought. 

Demand

Very often, this puts an onus on the applicant to prove there is no demand. This may take the form of a marketing exercise - the property should be marketed at a value reflecting the condition for a specified period. If no offers are received, the council may agree to the removal of the condition.

There are many pitfalls, however, and those wishing to go down this route should be properly advised.

But alternative avenues are available in some cases, perhaps where marketing is not an option, or it is undesirable to wait while it takes place.

Such avenues should be explored before embarking on any marketing campaign. An example would include discrepancies between the original plans for the dwelling, and the construction of the dwelling itself. Such discrepancies may render the condition unenforcable. 

Similarly, where there have been significant breaches of conditions, an argument may exist that the occupancy condition does not ‘bite’.

Non-compliance with the condition for a specified period of time can also render the condition unenforcable.

 All such examples involve complicated assessments and application of the law surrounding planning and its enforcement, so owners should be fully advised of all of their options before making an application to the council.

Readers' comments (23)

  • Please could you let me know the actual wording of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 section 290 (1). I understand that this covers agricultural and forestry, does this include horticulture?

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  • Michael

    s290(1) was replaced with s336(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, and includes horticulture, fruit growing and seed growing.

    Maria

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  • So if for example there is a residential property with around 30 acres (Harrogate area, so not vast!) that is being sold subject to an agricultural occupancy condition - what could that mean? As far as I'm aware there are no outbuildings, just a bungalow, so I'm guessing the land is just grazing. Why might such a place have an AOC?

    Thanks
    Emma

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  • So does an AOC mena that the 'main' family income needs to be from agriculture? Could my wife (who wishes to start a forestry-based business classify for the AOC even if this meant a very small income (especially initially) from her? Also, what happens if you purchase the property meeting the AOC, but at a later stage your agricultural income ceases?

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  • I have lived in a bungalow with agricultural occupancy restriction to care for my mother - she unfortunately has 'given' the land to my brothers and the bungalow to myself which leaves the bungalow with no land and therefore no means of my being in agriculture. Could you please tell me what my chances would be of getting the restriction lifted.

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  • Hi
    I am looking at purchasing a property which has an AOR imposed on it from its original consent in 1987, it was originally approved for the farm owner at the time to allow his sons (2) to live in the then original farm house. He has since passed away and the farm has been sold off separately leaving the bungalow. As a recently retired Estates Manager currently living 9 miles away from the property and previous work place was 20 miles from the property, do I qualify for eligibility to purchase under the original AOR terms of having worked or retired from employment defined as "locally"?
    What is local, under the latter T & C Planning Act the term local I believe is 30 miles?
    Is this true?
    Kind regards
    John

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  • Anonymous 28 June - You don't necessarily need to be employed in agriculture yourself depending on the wording of the condition. Often this also makes provision for relatives of persons employed or formerly employed in agriculture.

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  • Many farmers seem to use this site as a resource on getting agricultural occupancy tie removals.
    http://www.agriculturaloccupancy.co.uk

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  • Hi we are hoping to buy a house with an AOR the current owner husband is retired, wife is a hairdresser working from home. House was built in 1974 and all they have are a few hens, no arable or stock. What are chances of getting this removed? My husband is currently working on a farm rearing game birds and looking after pigs would we qualify?

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  • Hi,
    We are very unfamiliar with the AOR regulations hence my question. We currently live abroad but well be moving back to the UK as my wife wants to start her own business. We have seen 2 properties with land that have an AOR attached. The business would have a number of activities that we're not sure fall under the AOR regulations;
    - free range chickens (small quantity but definitely for resale as pure product or in the products to be sold)
    - pigs (small quantity again for a farmers market style business)
    - bee keeping (small quantity let's say 4 hives to start off with and possibly expanding once it's all running an economic viable)
    - fruit trees for the production of jams and chutneys (would be long term project as they take time to grow)
    It's all small scale as she's planning to do farmers markets and special fairs only.
    My profession which I'll continue has totally nothing to do with agriculture and is abroad.
    Would setting up such a business which will have a name and registered etc. where we definitely need some land to produce the major components of the products fall under an AOR?
    Kind regards, Paul

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