Ag Ties

At Carver Knowles we specialise in all aspects of Agricultural Occupancy Conditions. This means we can submit planning applications for rural workers to live at or near their place of business as well as removing these occupancy conditions from dwellings where the restriction is no longer appropriate.

Getting a new workers dwelling

Removing an Occupancy Condition

Getting a new house

Rural workers houses are allowed in isolated locations to provide essential accommodation for a rural worker through the use of an occupancy restriction. It is one of the very few exceptions that allows the building of a dwelling outside of a development boundary. By their nature these are not common applications and have to be carefully thought through to ensure the best possible chance of success.

Agricultural occupancy conditions are most common but since 2012 the scope of ‘ag-tied’ dwellings has expanded beyond just agriculture. This means if a sustainable need can be justified then a new dwelling can be granted for any rural business i.e. livery yard, equestrian competition yard etc.

Experience and depth of knowledge in both agriculture and the planning process is required to submit the best application for a rural workers dwelling. The justification of the business need must be clear and the lack of suitable alternatives must also be highlighted.

For new rural businesses getting an ag-tied dwelling is a two-step process and temporary accommodation is often required as an intermediary step. Business accounts are not needed in this instance but a robust business plan is required.

Carver Knowles can assist with all aspects of an application including the two key documents of a Planning Statement and a Business Plan/Appraisal. We are happy to work with architects and other consultants to ensure the best chance of success for every application.

We have had planning success for rural dwellings in Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, and Warwickshire and are looking forward to receiving our next instruction.

Removing an occupancy condition

Occupancy conditions generally restrict the occupation of a dwelling to an agricultural worker, and sometimes this restriction also can extend to tying the house to a certain parcel of land. This type of condition has been around since 1948 and were used extensively in the 1960’s to 1980’s when there was a boom in British agriculture. As time has gone on and agriculture has been mechanised there has been an overall fall in the number of agricultural workers in the UK and as such some properties with agricultural occupancy conditions have become obsolete.

The market for properties with an agricultural occupancy conditions is so restricted it is considered that a dwelling with an occupancy condition on it can reduce its value by up to 40% in some cases. Therefore the removal of the condition can result in a significant uplift in the property’s value.

The occupancy condition is a planning regulation and there are a number of routes available to remove the condition. The preferred route depends on a specific set of circumstances.

We offer a two-step instruction process to ensure the optimal route is chosen for each property. The first step is an appraisal of the property and its planning history against the current local planning policy. This assessment identifies the options available, the potential costs for removing the occupancy condition and the likelihood of success.

Once this appraisal is complete, and if a viable route is identified, we can move forwards with a planning application to remove or regularise the occupancy condition. We can offer this service on a nationwide basis as there is no need to visit the property.

A few examples have been outlined below to provide an insight to the variety of instruction we receive, and solutions achieved.

Removal through marketing

National planning policy indicates that planning conditions should only be removed where they are no longer necessary. Therefore, this is the key element that needs to be demonstrated in any planning application to remove a condition. Many Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) indicate, through their planning policy, that the acceptable way to show an agricultural occupancy condition is no longer necessary is by undertaking a marketing exercise advertising the property for sale or rent for a period of 12 months to gauge interest in the property. This process involves agreeing a guide price with the LPA to correctly reflect the presence of the restriction, marketing the property in a suitable manner and recording all interested parties.
In the event that someone that comes forward to purchase or rent the property within the twelve months and would comply with the occupancy condition the exercise will have failed. If no suitable parties come forward the restrictive condition can no longer be considered necessary and the condition should be removed.

By its nature this process will take at least 18 months from initial valuation to the decision being issued by the LPA. It is risky and takes a long time but if no one comes forward this is generally the most policy compliant approach to agricultural occupancy condition removal.

Where local planning policy is silent on the method and style of marketing there is scope for alternative marketing styles to achieve a quicker resort. We have found direct marketing and reviews of the local labour market useful assessments when commenting on demand of rural housing and occupancy conditions.

Case Study – Down Hatherley, near Gloucester

A three bed dwelling within Tewkesbury Borough Council was going through the process of being sold and during the sale process the agricultural occupancy condition was identified. As the property was part of a deceased estate and the condition had been put in place in the 1970’s it had long since been forgotten. The previous occupiers of the dwelling had not been involved in agriculture for the 40 years they had lived in the dwelling, however as no Lawful Development Certificate had been applied for and the property had been vacant for six months this course of action was no longer available.

The Tewkesbury Borough Council Local Plan was silent on the removal of agricultural occupancy conditions therefore we relied on the national Planning Policy Guidance to demonstrate the restriction was no longer necessary. As the property had already been marketed without the condition the clients were keen to find a quicker solution. An alternative method was identified, the following circumstances were key facts to achieving a successful outcome:

  • The original farming estate that this site once formed part of no longer existed, having been developed into a golf course and sold off in separate parcels.
  • A direct marketing campaign was undertaken to farm owners within a 7 mile radius which indicated no interest in this type of property due to location or price.
  • The change in the labour requirement in the agricultural sector from the 1970’s to 2017 showed a huge reduction in the volume of workers required and therefore the total number of houses needed has dramatically reduced.
  • The house had been occupied for 40 years by non compliant owners. Although this did not help secure a Lawful Development Certificate it did help as a material consideration in the historic use of the property.

These circumstances were specific to this property however similar situations have arisen and, particularly where there is a lack of local policy, the opportunities to remove agricultural occupancy conditions is often there.

Removal through marketing

In all planning matters there is an ability to enforce planning decisions and their associated conditions. Every Local Planning Authority could monitor the execution of planning consents and ensure that dwellings are built and occupied in accordance with their decision notic

Breach of condition

The enforcement regulations confirm that if a condition is continually not complied with for a period of 10 years then the opportunity to take enforcement action has been lost. An application for a Certificate of Lawful Use needs to be made to the Local Planning Authority with the supporting evidence of the continued breach of condition. The Certificate is granted if on the balance of probability, the breach has been continuous for a 10 year period. This is known as regularising the breach of condition.

This is not the removal of the condition but regularising it and preventing enforcement against the current occupants. If, at some point in the future, a person who complies with occupancy condition occupies the property or if the property is vacant for a prolonged period of time, the occupancy condition will be reactivated.

Case Study – Leominster

An ag tied dwelling was granted for a farmer’s parents-in-law to move nearer the family with a view that the father-in-law would work on the farm. Prior to the completion of the bungalow there was a change in circumstance meaning the parents would not be able to help on the farm however living near the family was now a must. The in-laws moved in and retired from their day jobs in car sales and administration.

Some 15 years later the farmer was reviewing their property and the in-laws were looking to relocate and came to us to maximise the potential from their assets. As the occupants of the property had never worked in agriculture and never received an income from the farm business, they had never complied with the agricultural occupancy condition. Herefordshire Council had never monitored the compliance of the condition. Due to the rules of enforcement this had happened for more than 10 consecutive years so the occupiers were now immune from enforcement action.

An application was made to Herefordshire Council with details including household bills confirming the occupiers presence and evidence of their income over the past 10 years and a Certificate of Lawful Use (CLEUD) was granted.

This also meant that as long as there was no break in occupation and future occupiers did not receive an income from agriculture the occupancy restriction had been regularised.

In this instance the condition was not removed but the council could not take enforcement action. The benefit with this route is that immunity is guaranteed if occupation and lack of agricultural income can be demonstrated. The drawback with this route is that it is only available after a 10 year breach and the condition can be resurrected if future occupants comply with the condition.

In other situations the granting of a CLUED has been the first step to the complete removal of the occupancy condition, however not all Local Authorities share this view.

Similarly, to the breach of condition, planning enforcement regulations enable planning officers to ensure all consented development is built in accordance with the decision notice. In the case of new homes, the Local Planning Authority have a time limit of 4 years to check their compliance. We have found that in some instances agricultural workers dwellings constructed in the 1960’s – 1980’s have not been built in compliance with their original plans by quite some margin. In several cases we have found that the built dwellings are materially different from the approved plans to such an extent that they would be considered entirely different dwellings to those approved under the planning consent. In these instances, we can apply to the Local Planning Authority for a Certificate of Lawful Development to confirm the home was built more than four years ago, without planning consent. As we can prove the planning consent did not apply to this building the occupation condition is not considered to apply and is therefore void.

Case Study – Prestbury, Cheltenham

The dwelling was built in 1972 to support the development of a new farm building complex at that time. The dwelling had since been sold to a non- compliant family member who had occupied the dwelling for 14 years. During the initial appraisal of the site it was clear that the dwelling had not been building in accordance with the approved layout plans. The plans were challenging to interpret due to their imperial scale and poor quality. However it was very clear the house was approximately 6 metres further south than it should have been and the road access was further to the west than the approved plans.
The client therefore had the opportunity to apply to the council for immunity on either the use or the development of the house. As the application for a Certificate of Lawful Development would result in the permanent removal of the agricultural occupancy condition this route was chosen.

Tewkesbury Borough Council accepted the positioning of the dwelling and associated access was materially different to the approved plans and that the dwelling had been built for more than the required four years. The dwelling had therefore gained permanent immunity and the agricultural occupancy condition was no longer relevant.

Alternative methods of removal

The removal of an occupancy condition is dependant on a variety of factors including, but not limited to:

  • The local planning policy
  • The date the original consent was issued
  • The situation of the property
  • The size and scale of the property
  • The use of the surrounding area

This means that to get a successful planning application each of these aspects have to be reviewed to ensure the application will be supported by local planning policy. Our two step appraisal process leads the way in identifying creative routes to occupancy condition removal where necessary. One planning officer in Herefordshire commented in his delegated report that our application was ‘unusual approach but not necessarily inappropriate’ and went on to grant the removal consent.

Removing occupancy conditions is not straightforward and to achieve the best results it is essential to employ an experienced planning consultant.

Please see our case studies and testimonials for other ag tied house success.