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Removal of agricultural occupancy conditions (“ag tags”) on rural dwellings

A local planning authority (LPA) may grant a planning permission for the development of a house for occupation by an agricultural or forestry worker on a site where residential development would not normally be permitted, for example, within the green belt or outside a recognised settlement.

Where an application is granted for such a house, the LPA will include an agricultural occupancy planning condition (commonly referred to as an ‘ag tag’ by planners, surveyors and agents) that restricts the occupation of the dwelling to agricultural or forestry workers and their families or similarly retired workers.

An example of an ‘Ag Tag’ wording is as set out below:

“The occupation of the dwelling hereby authorised shall be limited to a person solely or mainly employed, or last employed, in the locality in agriculture as defined in Section 290(1) of the Town & Country Planning Act 1971 or in forestry (including any dependants of such a person residing with him), or a widow or widower of such a person.”

While such a condition is reasonable and necessary for the purpose of controlling the use and occupation for planning reasons, it will also have the effect of reducing the market value of the property to the level that qualifying buyers can be reasonably expected to pay for the property, often representing a discount of about 30% below the market value for a similar unconditioned property.

If a non qualifying purchaser buys a property subject to an ag tag, there is a risk that enforcement action will be taken by the local planning authority for breach of the condition. Simply keeping a few chickens and selling a few eggs or similar activity at the property or elsewhere will not generally convince a local planning authority that the house is in occupation by a qualifying worker!

However if it can be established that the ag tag condition has been breached continuously for a ten years, for example by providing evidence of an uninterrupted period of occupation by non agricultural or forestry workers for 10 years or more, the breach may be immune from planning enforcement action.  In these cases an application may be applied for a certificate of lawfulness of existing use or development (CLEUD) to permit continued lawful occupation of the property, and if successful will enable the property to continue to be occupied without risk of enforcement of the condition. However even if the CLEUD application is successful, it does not remove the ag tag.

The means of removing the condition permanently is to make a ‘section 73’ application to the local planning authority for its removal.  This is only likely to be granted if it can be clearly demonstrated with documentary evidence that it no longer serves a reasonable and necessary planning purpose now or in the foreseeable future. The application will normally only be entertained by the local authority after an extensive marketing campaign has taken place, advertising the property at a discounted price for a significant period (usually at least a year) , and only after the applicant has demonstrated that availability of the property has been brought to the attention of the limited number of prospective buyers that may be interested in such a property, and there is no foreseeable anticipated demand for such property.  

The above article is for information only. For further advice on dealing with agricultural occupancy restrictions or for advice on any other town and country planning issues please contact our specialist at commprop@prettys.co.uk

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