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Stackyard News Dec 09

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Agricultural Occupancy

Removing agricultural occupancy conditions gives greater flexibility to the occupancy, management and disposal of a property, says Stephen Rutledge of Fisher German LLP.

Stephen Rutledge of Fisher German LLP

Stephen Rutledge of Fisher German LLP

The diversification of farm businesses and estates and the reduction of their labour forces has meant that more cottages and farm houses have become available to either let or sell away from the core property. However, many of the dwellings are subject to Agricultural Occupancy Conditions (AOC), limiting their occupancy to current or former agricultural workers. As such, an AOC can discount the value of a property by up to 40%, particularly in a difficult market.

Owners of property subject to such conditions should investigate whether there is a possibility of removing them or negating their effect. The removal of an AOC gives greater flexibility to the occupancy, management and disposal of a property. An AOC can be removed in a number of ways. For example, a property can be marketed for sale, subject to the AOC, in order to demonstrate that there is no demand for such a property with an AOC. However, this can take a substantial period of time and incur marketing expenses.

An alternative route is to apply for a Certificate of Lawfulness which confirms that the Council is effectively barred from enforcing the condition. The decision making process
in determining a Certificate of Lawfulness is quasi judicial in nature, meaning that the onus of proof is with the applicant and a decision is made based on fact. Given that an
exception to general planning policy will have been made for the permission to have been granted in the first place, local authorities can be reluctant to lift planning conditions.

It is therefore critical that a thorough investigation is undertaken to put together the best case for the removal of an AOC. If the certificate is refused, the chances of success on appeal are generally low, as an Inspector is much more technically demanding when considering an appeal. In such a complex area professional planning advice should be sought as early as possible in the process.

For further information visit or Contact Stephen Rutledge on 01295 226292 or e mail

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