Planning policy for development in the countryside is restrictive and generally seeks to prevent the development of isolated sites. However, certain planning policies recognise that there is sometimes a need to develop residential dwellings specifically for rural workers, this is where occupancy conditions come in.

An occupancy condition is an instrument of planning designed to restrict who can reside in certain dwellings in the countryside. Traditionally restricting the lawful occupancy of a dwelling to someone formally employed in agriculture or forestry on a specific holding or near to the dwelling.

Occupancy conditions are normally imposed at the time of planning consent by way of a condition attached to the decision notice. In other cases, they can be backed up through a separate legally binding planning obligation (often called a section 106 agreement) which re-enforces the condition and sometimes links the dwelling to the land or extends the condition to other existing dwellings.

Can an agricultural occupancy condition be removed?

As business and technology develop and change, workforce demands also change, therefore a dwelling may no longer be needed for a rural worker.

There are two ways in which an AOC can potentially be removed.

1. If the owner of a dwelling with an agricultural tie can prove that the dwelling has been occupied by a non-qualifying tenant for longer than 10 years, in breach of lawful occupation, they can apply for a CLEUD (Certificate of Lawfulness of Existing Use or Development). If an applicant is successful and granted the certificate this doesn't actually remove the condition, it only guarantees future enforcement action will not be taken due to the breach. For a full removal of the tie, a further planning application (known as Section 73) will be necessary.

2. If the owner can demonstrate that there is no longer any requirement for such a dwelling. In most cases, this means marketing the property with the condition in place, then proving there has been no interest in purchasing it from any party. The property must be marketed as such for over 12 months and if after such time there has been no interest in the property then this can be used as evidence for part of a Section 73 application.

For a CLEUD to be successful, the onus is on the applicant to evidence that a continuous breach for 10 years has occurred. Although the application will allow for very short-term voids of the property due to re-letting to new tenants, longer voids will invalidate the application for a CLEUD and the clock starts again.

If you choose to demonstrate no requirement for an AOC then you must be prepared to foot the costs of marketing the property. This investment needs to be balanced against the increase in the asset value and rentable income potential should you be successful.

Budget: Without understanding more about your AOC we cannot really give a realistic budget or timescale. A variation or discharge of condition starts from £950. Depending on the project, CLEUD can range from £3000 to £5000.

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