An agricultural tie condition (“Ag Tie”) imposed on planning permission restricts the occupation of a dwelling to agricultural workers and their families.   Such conditions are usually imposed in areas where the proposed dwelling would otherwise be refused permission.  An Ag Tie will affect the value of the dwelling as compared to similar unrestricted dwellings.

To remove an Ag Tie an application is to be made to the Local Planning Authority (“LPA”) with robust evidence that it is no longer reasonable or necessary.   LPAs are very reluctant to remove an Ag Tie once imposed.

Facts

In 2007, planning permission was granted for the conversion of a farm building to a dwelling at Sutton Springs Trout Fishery Grounds. That permission was subject to a number of conditions, including the following Ag Tie:

“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.”

The site was in an area where new dwellings were not permitted except, where there was an overriding need in the interest of agriculture, hence the imposition of the Ag Tie.

In 2017, the appellants made an application to remove the Ag Tie. In 2018, Winchester City Council refused the application on the basis that it was in contravention of policy restricting development in the countryside.

The appellant appealed the LPA’s decision on the basis that the Ag Tie was no longer reasonable nor necessary.  This was the case as there was no longer a need to house workers employed in agriculture or forestry on the holding or in the surrounding area.

Decision & key considerations

In April 2019, the appeal was allowed by the Inspector and the Ag Tie was removed.

In making the decision, the Inspector noted 2 key considerations:

  1. the marketing of the dwelling; and
  2. the price of the dwelling.

The asking price had been determined by a detailed valuation of the dwelling providing for a discount due to the Ag Tie.  The appellant had gone through a sustained period of marketing the dwelling with very little success.  In the 6 years, the dwelling was on the market, only 3 offers had been made.  All such offers were below the asking price and all three were withdrawn.  Although no reasons were provided for the withdrawal of the offers, there was no evidence that any of the potential purchasers who put forward an offer could actually comply with the Ag Tie.

Taking the length and extent of the marketing into account, the Inspector concluded that the dwelling had a lack of serious interest.  The Council’s own evidence relating to the dwellings within the area which had been granted with an Ag Tie also indicated the low levels of need in the surrounding area.

The Inspector noted that the more valuable a dwelling, the greater the impact of an Ag Tie, leading to greater discounts needing to be applied in order to sell when compared to similar dwellings without an Ag Tie. The Inspector also noted that even with substantial discounts in place, the price of the dwelling would remain outside the reach of the vast majority of rural workers.

Conclusions

Evidence of robust marketing is always vital when making an application to remove an Ag Tie.  Without such, it is difficult to evidence the lack of need. 

Although each case will be decided on its own merit, this case highlights that those dwellings that remain high value and unaffordable to the vast majority of agricultural or forestry workers, even with significant discounts, may be more likely to be successful in removing an Ag Tie restriction.

[Appeal Reference: APP/L1765/W/18/3211073 date 5 April 2019}

About the author

Rebecca Mushing Solicitor

Rebecca advises on various planning and highway matters as well as a variety of commercial property transactions.