Removal of Agricultural Occupancy Condition

Removal of Agricultural Occupancy Condition

A recent appeal decision from the Planning Inspectorate has demonstrated how it can be possible for an Agricultural Occupancy Conditions to be removed from a property where its value is beyond the reach of most rural workers.

Planning permission had been granted by Winchester City Council in 2007 for the conversion of a farm building to dwelling subject to a condition stating that:

"The occupation of the dwelling shall be limited to a person solely or mainly working, or last working in the locality in agriculture or in forestry, or a widow or widower of such a person and any resident dependents."

In 2017 an application was made to remove the condition but this was refused by the Council.  The owner appealed and the case was considered by a planning inspector in February 2019.

The decision was issued on 5 April and in it the inspector identified that the main issue was whether the condition remained:

"reasonable and necessary having regard to the need for housing for workers solely or mainly employed in agriculture or forestry on the holding or in the surrounding area"

A crucial issues in these cases is the valuation attached to the property and the level of discount at which it should be marketed to reflect the fact that it is bound by an agricultural occupancy condition.  The planning inspector accepted that the property had been appropriately marketed for a sufficient period of time and at a price which reflected a significant discount on what it would fetch without the condition.  Nevertheless, the only offers which had been received were from people who could not satisfy the condition.

This led the inspector to conclude that there was not sufficient evidence that this particular property was needed for the housing for workers solely or mainly employed in agriculture or forestry on the holding or in the surrounding area.

Whilst this is an encouraging case for owners looking to sell a property without the constraints of an agricultural occupancy condition it should be remembered that each case is considered on its merits.  The state of the local market, the availability of other properties with AOC’s, the precise wording of the condition and local planning policies will all be relevant.

Our planning law team has considerable experience of advising developers, landowners and local planning authorities on all legal aspects of town and country planning. 

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