Agricultural Occupancy Conditions

With Government policy typically opposed to the building of new houses in open countryside, it is often difficult to gain planning permission to build houses in such areas. That said, if a house is needed for the proper operation of an agricultural business (e.g. to house workers), planning permission subject to an Agricultural Occupancy Condition (AOC) may be granted. This condition works so as to allow a dwelling to be built where it would otherwise be refused on the basis that the occupancy is then restricted to agricultural workers and their families.

Given that the planning permission to build the dwelling is often only granted if the AOC is imposed, authorities are often unwilling to agree to their removal. However, whilst it is difficult to get an AOC removed, it is not impossible and can potentially be achieved in the following ways:

  • The landowner can apply for a Certificate of Lawful Existing Use and Development. This is done by the applicant proving that there has been a continuous breach of the condition for at least 10 years from the date of the application and working back. A breach of this condition would be, for example, a non-agricultural worker occupying the property.
  • The landowner can market the property on the open market (normally at a reduced rate to take into account the AOC) for a specified period of time, usually no less than 12 months, in an attempt to show that the property is no longer required for agricultural purposes in the area. If no reasonable offers are received within this period, the local planning authority may agree to the removal of the AOC. This is not a straightforward removal, applicants in the past have been criticised for failing to offer the land to rent as well as for purchase and for failing to advertise in the specialist farming press.

This is a complex area of planning law, but one which can result in a substantial increase in the capital value of the property in question.