Supplementary Planning Guidance Agricultural Workers Dwellings
Adopted October 1997
1- Central Government Advice
2 - Functional Test
3 - History of Holdings 4 Temporary Agricultural Dwellings 5 Agricultural Occupancy Conditions 5 Planning Obligations Under Section 106 6 Development Plan Policies 7 Appeal Decisions 7
Structure Plan (Third Alteration) 1994 14 Structure Plan (First Review) 1996 14 North Devon Local Plan (Deposit Version) 1996 14
Supplementary Planning Guidance
Agricultural Workers Dwellings Adopted by Planning Committee on 14th October 1997
North Devon District Council Planning Unit Civic Centre BARNSTAPLE EX31 1EA
Development Control Criteria
Appendix A – Appeal Decisions
Appendix B – Development Plan Policies
SUPPLEMENTARY PLANNING GUIDANCE AGRICULTURAL WORKERS DWELLINGS
1.1 There is a general policy restraint on new dwellings in the open countryside. The only exceptions are the erection of dwellings intended to house agricultural and forestry workers and, in appropriate cases, the conversion of rural buildings. Such policy guidance forms a central and long established element of rural settlement policy within the United Kingdom.
1.2 ‘Agriculture’ is defined in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 as follows:
♦ ‘Agriculture’ includes horticulture, fruit growing, seed growing, dairy farming, the breeding and keeping of livestock (including any creature kept for the production of food, wool, skins or fur, or for the purpose of its use in the farming of land), the use of land as grazing land, meadow land, osier land, market gardens and nursery grounds, and the use of land for woodlands where that use is ancillary to the farming of land for other agricultural purposes, and ‘agricultural’ shall be construed accordingly’.
1.3 For the avoidance of doubt it should be noted that the definition of ‘agriculture’ excludes the keeping of horses for breeding and recreational purposes or related equestrian activities.
1.4 National policy guidance is clear in that it requires applicants for new agricultural dwellings to demonstrate a genuine agricultural need for the erection of new dwellings away from towns, villages and hamlets. However, at both national and local level, there has been a growing perception that this policy concession has been subject to misuse, with the agricultural dwelling exception exploited for speculative purposes or as a means of gaining a new home in the countryside. Such concerns are, for example, acknowledged in PPG7 and in reports such as those prepared by CPRE (1990) and more recently by Land Use Planning Consultants (1996).
1.5 Thus, the latter report concludes:
♦ ‘in more isolated rural areas considerable emphasis may still be placed on personal circumstances over functional need; retirement dwellings are not uncommon’.
whilst the CPRE publication comments:
♦ ‘CPRE fears that abuse of the special exemption offered to agricultural dwellings is widespread ... the result has too often been the development of a substantial house with little or no associated agricultural activity, isolated in the countryside, where strict planning policies are intended to control new development’.
In a further report (1992) the CPRE noted:
‘although the planning system has controlled sporadic development remarkably well, considerable damage is still done by items such as ... dwellings classed as for agricultural workers ... which fall outside the mainstream of the planning system or where special controls are abused’.
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1.6 At the national level, planning permission has been granted for approximately 70,000 farmhouses and cottages since 1947 - in locations (often remote and in sensitive landscapes) where permission would normally have been refused to any other applicant. In a local context, applications for agricultural dwellings in North Devon reached a maximum figure of 90 applications in 1988, a year in which the District and the United Kingdom experienced the highest ever volume of applications for all categories of development. The annual number of applications for agricultural dwellings and all application types has since decreased, indicative of the overall performance of the wider economy. Nonetheless, applications for agricultural dwellings continue to be submitted notwithstanding significant changes in the structure of the industry.
1.7 In total, approximately 1550 applications for agricultural dwellings have been received within North Devon District in the post-war period, of which approximately two thirds have been approved.
2.0 CENTRAL GOVERNMENT ADVICE
2.1 National advice set out in the extant PPG7 (February 1997), and specifically Annex 1 (paragraph I1) to that guidance note, states:
♦ ‘normally it will be as convenient for (agricultural or forestry) workers to live in nearby towns and villages as it will be for them to live where they work. This may have domestic and social advantages as well as avoiding potentially intrusive development in the countryside’.
2.2 Paragraph 3.21 further advises:
♦ ‘New house building and other new development in the open countryside, away from established settlements or from areas allocated for development in development plans, should be strictly controlled. The fact that a single house on a particular site would be unobtrusive is not by itself a good argument; it could be repeated too often. Isolated new houses in the countryside require special justification – for example, where they are essential to enable farm or forestry workers to live at or near their place of work. Advice on the special considerations which may arise in relation to agricultural and forestry dwellings is given in Annex I ...’.
2.3 Annex I (paragraph I2) of PPG7 notes that one of the few circumstances in which isolated residential development in the countryside may be justified is when accommodation is required to enable farm or forestry workers to live in the immediate vicinity of their place of work:
♦ ‘... whether this is essential in any particular case will depend on the needs of the farm or forestry enterprise concerned and not on the personal preferences or circumstances of any of the individuals involved’.
2.4 Paragraph I3 of the Annex continues by advising that despite planning policies that impose strict controls on new residential development in the open countryside, and the substantial reduction in agricultural employment, the demand remains high:
♦ ‘... some of this demand may be justified by the genuine needs of farming and forestry, but much is speculative and stems from applicants seeking to exploit the physical or financial advantages of a new house in the countryside. It is, therefore, essential that all applications for planning permission for new agricultural or forestry dwellings are scrutinised thoroughly with the aim of detecting attempts to abuse the concession that the planning system makes for such dwellings’.
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2.5 Paragraph I4 encourages authorities to apply tests when considering planning applications. The tests may be summarised as follows:
a) are the stated intentions genuine (in particular, has the enterprise a sound financial basis);
b) are the stated intentions reasonably likely to materialise (i.e clear evidence is required of a firm intention and ability to develop the enterprise rather than merely a statement of intent);
c) are the stated intentions capable of being sustained for a reasonable period of time; d) do the needs of the intended enterprise require one or more of the people engaged
in it to live nearby.
2.6 Paragraph I5 of the revised PPG7 emphasises that new permanent dwellings should only be allowed to support existing agricultural activities on well-established agricultural units, providing:
a) there is a clearly defined existing functional need; b) the need relates to a full-time worker, or one who is primarily engaged in
agriculture, and does not relate to a part-time requirement; c) the unit and the agricultural activity concerned have been established for at least
three years, have been profitable for at least one of them, are currently financially
sound, and have a clear prospect of remaining so; d) the functional need could not be fulfilled by another dwelling on the unit, or any
other existing accommodation in the area which is suitable and available for
occupation by the workers concerned; and e) other normal planning requirements, for example siting and access, are satisfied.
2.7 Functional Test
In all cases a functional test will be necessary to establish whether it is essential (rather than merely desirable) for the proper functioning of the enterprise for one or more workers to be readily available at most times to deal with, for example, if workers are needed to be on hand day or night in case animals or agricultural processes require essential care at short notice or to deal quickly with emergencies that could otherwise cause serious loss of crops or products. The Annex specifically advises that the protection of livestock from theft or injury by intruders may contribute on animal welfare grounds to the need for an agricultural dwelling, although it will not by itself be sufficient to justify one.
The same paragraph I8 adds ‘nor can agricultural need justify the provision of new dwellings as retirement homes for farmers’.
♦ It is the functional requirements of the holding and not the personal circumstances of the applicant which will be the determining issue whilst labour needs alone are not sufficient to justify a new dwelling in the countryside – the nature of the farming operation must be such as to require the full-time attendance of a resident worker. Thus, for example, any seasonal need to cover lambing could be met be stationing a temporary caravan on the farm.
2.8 Paragraph I9 of the PPG7 advises that when a functional requirement is demonstrated it will then be necessary to consider the number of workers intended to meet it, for which the scale and nature of the enterprise will be relevant.
2.9 The local planning authority will in all cases need to be satisfied whether the need noted in the preceding paragraphs requires a worker to actually live on the holding (rather than in the locality) and also consider whether a dwelling already exists to meet such a need (including a suitable barn for conversion) and whether any dwellings or conversions have been sold off in the past. Where existing accommodation is insufficient, or where none
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exists, it may be appropriate for planning permission to be granted provided other
normal planning requirements, for example, siting and access, are also satisfied. 2.10 Paragraph I10 of PPG7 further advises:
♦ ‘... new permanent accommodation cannot be justified on agricultural grounds unless the farming enterprise is economically viable. A financial test is necessary for this purpose, and to provide evidence of the size of dwelling which the unit can sustain’.
Any dwelling should accordingly be of a size commensurate with the established functional requirement and is affordable to the local agricultural community.
2.11 Paragraph I11 goes on to note that agricultural dwellings:
♦ ‘... should be of a size commensurate with the established functional requirement. Dwellings which are unusually large in relation to the agricultural needs of the unit, or unusually expensive to construct in relation to the income it can sustain in the long-term, should not normally be permitted. It is the requirements of the enterprise rather than of the owner or occupier which are relevant to determining whether or not a new dwelling is justified’.
(Note: the average agricultural wage at 1997 figure is approximately £13,000 per annum).
2.12 The Guidance Note (paragraph I12) recognises that there will be some cases in which the planning circumstances of the site are such that, if a new permanent dwellings is approved, the local planning authority may wish to impose a condition removing permitted development rights under Part 1 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 (for example, proposed extensions which could result in a dwelling whose size exceeded that which could be justified by the functional requirement, and affect the continued viability of maintaining the property for its intended use given the income which the agricultural unit can sustain).
As a guide,
♦ an average farm workers dwelling should be around 1500 square feet (excluding garage)
♦ and that of a farm manager, partner or proprietor 1750 square feet (to incorporate, for example, a farm office).
2.13 History of Holdings
In response to growing concerns over the problem of the disposal of farm dwellings separate from farm holdings, central government has acknowledged in paragraph I7 of PPG7 that in cases where local planning authorities are particularly concerned over possible abuse:
♦ ‘... it may be helpful to investigate the history of the holding to establish the recent pattern of use of the land and buildings and whether, for example, any dwellings have recently been sold separately from the farmland concerned. Such a sale could constitute evidence of lack of agricultural need’.
In the Authority’s view a reasonable period over which the history of a holding may be investigated is over 10/15 years, in exceptional cases investigation over a longer period may be justified.
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2.14 Temporary Agricultural Dwellings
Paragraph I14 of the PPG advises:
♦ ‘... if a new dwelling is essential to support a new farming activity, whether on a newly-created agricultural unit or an established one, it should normally for the first three years be provided by a caravan, a wooden structure which can be easily dismantled, or other temporary accommodation’.
Any such proposal should satisfy the criteria detailed in Section 3 of this guidance note.
Paragraph I15 of PPG7 states that if permission for temporary accommodation is granted, permission for a permanent dwelling should not subsequently be granted unless the criteria in paragraph I5 of the PPG are met. Planning authorities should make clear the period for which temporary permission is granted, the fact that the temporary accommodation will have to be removed, and the requirements that will have to be met if a permanent permission is to be granted. The same paragraph comments:
♦ ‘... it will be unsatisfactory to grant successive extensions to a temporary permission over a period of more than three years. Local planning authorities should not grant temporary permissions in locations where they would not permit a permanent dwelling’.
2.15 The PPG adds that if a new dwelling is essential to support a new farming activity, whether on a newly-created agricultural unit or an established one, it should normally for the first three years be provided by a caravan or other temporary accommodation and should also satisfy criteria relating to a firm intention and ability to develop the enterprise, functional need, clear evidence of a sound financial basis, there being no other suitable accommodation available on the unit or in the locality and the proposal otherwise satisfying normal planning requirements (for example, siting and access).
2.16 The Authority is also aware from cases within the District of difficulties in securing the removal of mobile homes from land once planning permission has expired and the attempts of applicants to renew such consents notwithstanding the absence of any continuing agricultural need. In all cases, the Authority will expect the mobile home to be removed from the site at the expiry of any temporary consent, failing which action will be taken to regularise any breach of planning control.
2.17 Agricultural Occupancy Conditions Annex I to PPG7 also provides advice to the effect that where the need to accommodate
agricultural or forestry workers has been accepted:
♦ ‘... it will be necessary to ensure that the dwellings are kept available for meeting this need’.
The guidance recommends the following model agricultural occupancy condition:
♦ ‘... 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 to any resident dependents’.
The Authority will be imposing this condition in all cases where planning permission is granted.
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2.18 Paragraph I18 of the Annex adds that the model occupancy condition recommended will:
♦ ‘... ensure that the dwelling is kept available to meet the needs of other farm or forestry businesses in the locality if it is no longer needed by the original business, thus avoiding a proliferation of dwellings in the open countryside’.
Consistent with that advice, paragraph I21 of the Annex goes on to state that applications to remove agricultural conditions will have regard not only to the circumstances relating to the original application but to realistic assessments of a continuing need for such dwellings:
♦ ‘... bearing in mind that it is the need for a dwelling for someone solely, mainly or last working in agriculture in an area as a whole and not just on the particular holding that is relevant’.
2.19 Whilst national guidance does not clarify the term ‘local’ the authority has used on appeal, and had accepted by the Secretary of State for the Environment, the criterion of ‘reasonable daily travel to work area’ consistent, for example, with former Department of Employment criteria. Regard will also be had to the House of Lords case of Fawcett Properties Ltd v Buckingham County Council 1960 3 All ER 503 and Lord Denning’s conclusions in which he interpreted the phrase ‘agricultural population’ as per the restrictions then in the Housing Act as meaning the agricultural population of ‘of the district’, that is, ‘of the locality’.
2.20 The term ‘mainly working’ may only be assessed on a ‘fact and degree’ basis but the Authority’s interpretation will be that occupants of such dwellings should spend the greater part of their employment (working hours) in agriculture in the locality.
2.21 Annex I, paragraph I19 also advises that when granting planning permission for a new agricultural dwelling, local planning authorities should be aware of the scope for imposing an occupancy condition not only on the proposed new dwelling but also on:
♦ ‘... any existing dwellings on the unit which are under the control of the applicant, do not have occupancy conditions and need at the time of the application to be used in connection with the farm. This should help protect the countryside against the risk of pressure for new houses. The Courts have confirmed the scope for imposing such a condition (Macklin and others v Secretary of State for the Environment and Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, 27 September 1995). In appropriate circumstances, authorities may use planning obligations to tie a farmhouse to adjacent farm buildings, to prevent them being sold separately without further application to the authority’.
2.22 Planning Obligations under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990
♦ The use of Section 106 Obligations should not replace the fundamental necessity of applicants to demonstrate a genuine agricultural need for an additional dwelling on a particular holding. If no such need exists then the willingness or otherwise of applicants to enter into such agreements should not affect the merits or the outcome of any application.
2.23 If a genuine need can be demonstrated then, other than in exceptional circumstances, the Authority will use Section 106 Obligations to:
i) tie existing and proposed farm dwelling(s) to the farm holding; ii) tie an agricultural dwelling(s) to adjacent farm buildings; iii) secure other works or controls necessary for the development and operation of the
enterprise (for example, the erection of farm buildings) providing agricultural viability has already been established (planning conditions could alternatively be used depending on particular circumstances).
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2.24 In appropriate cases the Authority will monitor the operation of occupancy conditions and compliance with Section 106 Obligations and initiate enforcement action, particularly in cases where the claimed justification for a permanent dwelling to support a proposed new enterprise has failed to materialise (paragraph I20 of Annex I).
2.25 Development Plan Policies The policies of the County Structure Plan and North Devon Local Plan are set out in
Appendix B to this guidance note. 2.26 Appeal Decisions
A number of appeal decisions from both within and outside the District, including the four noted in Appendix A to these guidelines and to which reference is made in the Deposit Version of the North Devon Local Plan, have clarified issues arising from applications for agricultural dwellings. In particular, the decisions of the Secretary of State have supported the authority’s stance regarding the following matters:
a) The imposition of an agricultural occupancy tie on both proposed and existing dwellings. The issue is referred to above but, for example, in one case the appointed Inspector concluded such a tie served a sound planning purposes to prevent severance of existing dwellings from the holding and to protect the character of the countryside. Even though the landscape in question carried no special designation, ‘ordinary' countryside nonetheless warranted protection for its own sake, as acknowledged in PPG7. The use of such a condition was also supported on appeal locally at Brightleycott, Roborough, West Pilton (reference 2/86/647/51/3) as ‘necessary, appropriate and entirely supportable’ and is cited in a standard text on development control practice.
The scope for imposing agricultural conditions on new and any existing dwellings under the control of the applicant is also specifically noted in Paragraph I19 of PPG7.
b) Any stated intentions must be likely to materialise and be capable of being sustained for a reasonable period of time (Paragraph I4 of PPG7) and the inappropriateness of, for example, a legal agreement requiring the construction of agricultural buildings and stocking of a holding in the absence of a proven agricultural viability at the time of determination of the application. In the Inspector’s words in determining one of the four aforementioned appeals ‘the mere prospect of viability is not enough’.
c) The need for any agricultural justification to relate solely to the main farmstead and not to off land where holdings are fragmented. In one case the appointed Inspector specifically advised ‘there is a need for great caution in considering the location of and need for dwellings to serve holdings which comprise several scattered parcels of land. My caution is founded on national policy ...’.
d) On a related issue the need for any agricultural justification to be based solely on the viability of owned land, and not, as a general rule, on tenanted or otherwise unsecured, land. Thus, in another case, the appointed Inspector commented:
♦ ‘... to permit a dwelling on one area might well give rise to pressure for a further dwelling on the other, off-lying area in order to facilitate its management. Alternatively, it is quite conceivable that the appeal site could be severed from the tenanted lands and subsequently by the addition of a relatively restricted owner-occupied area to the tenanted lands, history could repeat itself. A similar case could then be made out for another dwelling elsewhere’.
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e) The selling off from holdings of original dwellings and the authority’s entitlement to look closely at the history of holdings, as noted in Paragraph I7 of PPG7. Several appeal decisions from the District (for example, 16589; 15783; 14168; 13840 and 11250) have supported the authority’s practice of resisting applications for new agricultural dwellings where the original dwelling(s) have been sold off separately from the farm land (even where, solely on the agricultural merits of the case, the application receives agricultural support). Similar considerations apply to cases where barns suitable for conversion to dwellings have been sold off in the recent past.
f) The viability of holdings being dependent on the annual purchase of a substantial acreage of grass keep is not such as to amount to sufficient viability warranting a further dwelling.
g) The need for the size of agricultural dwellings to be reflected in their intended occupation by a farm worker and to be ‘commensurate with the established functional requirement’ of the holding (Paragraph I11 of PPG7). Two further appeal decisions from within the county highlight the requirement:
‘Permission has already been granted here, in addition to the existing house adjoining, for a very substantial 4 bedroom dwelling which in terms of floorspace and scale goes well beyond any ‘farm manager’s dwelling’ of my previous experience ... I also consider that the future, potential, use of such an enlarged house is a matter of proper concern ... to expand the size of the property beyond that which has already been permitted would, in my judgement, render the present occupancy condition increasingly unrealistic ...’.
(DOE reference T/APP/E3321/A/90/163768/P8).
‘The evidence before me strongly suggests that if this bungalow were to be extended as proposed, it would in practice be likely to pass beyond the economic reach of any agricultural worker’. (DOE reference T/APP/K1128/A/90/172624/P8).
h) It will be the functional requirements of a holding, and not the personal circumstances of applicants, that are the material issues in the determination of applications for agricultural dwellings. In this, the authority are supported by the advice set out in Annex I to PPG7, the adopted policies of the County Structure Plan and appeals determined by the Planning Inspectorate. The stance is also substantiated by the recommendations set out in the Report by Audrey Lees into the operation of the planning system in North Cornwall (1992). An appeal decision from within the district highlights the issue:
‘On the other hand, it is a long-established principle of planning control that whilst personal circumstances might perhaps tip the balance in an otherwise evenly balanced case, permission cannot be granted merely to avoid hardship. The basic planning issues here are not evenly balanced; they are definitely against the development. If, through my natural sympathy for (the appellants) I were to treat the personal circumstances in this case as overriding, important policies would be undermined. I conclude that the personal factors are not of such weight as to justify the grant of planning permission’.
(DOE reference T/APP/C/93/X1118/628478).
i) If the principle of a new agricultural dwelling is demonstrated to the satisfaction of the Authority, the development should otherwise accord with other development control criteria including siting, scale, design and access considerations. Siting should be closely related to the farm buildings the agricultural dwelling is intended to serve and, where possible, be served off the same access.
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3.0 DEVELOPMENT CONTROL CRITERIA
3.1 In the light of the foregoing considerations, applications for agricultural dwellings will be assessed having regard to the following criteria:-
♦ New agricultural dwellings will only be allowed where there is a clearly established functional agricultural need for a farm worker to live on the holding rather than in a nearby town or village.
♦ Any such need should clearly relate to a full-time worker and not to part-time or retirement requirements. A seasonal requirement (for example, supervision during lambing) is unlikely to fulfil the requirement for a full-time functional need. The protection of livestock from theft or injury, whilst possibly contributing on animal welfare grounds to the need for a dwelling, will not by itself be sufficient to justify one. Nor can agricultural needs justify the provision of new dwellings as retirement homes for farmers.
♦ Applications for dwellings on holdings which are fragmented, where dwellings are proposed on off-land and where a dwelling is proposed on part owned holdings which use the viability of tenanted land to justify a dwelling on owned land, will be looked at with particular care.
♦ Applications will be assessed on the basis of the functional and financial tests set out in the revised PPG7 together with a realistic assessment of future prospects and likely sustainability. Arguments relating to the personal circumstances of applicant(s), although taken account of along with normal planning considerations, will rarely be material in any such assessment.
♦ In order to justify a permanent dwelling the unit and the agricultural activity concerned should have been established for at least three years, have been profitable for at least one of them, should be currently financially sound and have a clear prospect of remaining so. It will be necessary to satisfy the financial viability test of PPG7, and prove financial viability by submitting a Gross Margin and Gross Profit analysis based on guidelines set out by ADAS.
♦ There should be no other dwelling or any other accommodation in the area, or extant planning permission, which could fulfil the proven functional need for additional accommodation to serve the holding.
♦ Applications should be accompanied by a fully detailed and independent agricultural appraisal prepared by an appropriately qualified consultant commissioned by the applicant. Such an appraisal should specifically address the functional requirements of the holding, whether the enterprise is likely to materialise and the sustainability of the proposed enterprise. Whilst the appraisal will form part of the supporting evidence provided with the planning application, such technical appraisals ‘will be confined to a factual statement of the agricultural considerations involved and an evaluation of the specific points on which advice is sought; no recommendation for or against the application will be made’ (Paragraph I22 PPG7). In such circumstances, the Authority will need to take into account the other factors detailed in this Supplementary Guidance Note in the determination of planning applications for agricultural dwellings. In certain circumstances, the Authority will commission its own agricultural appraisals.
♦ Applications must also be accompanied by a financial test to demonstrate the viability of the farming enterprise and to provide evidence of the size of dwelling the unit can sustain.
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♦ The time limits for the submission of outline applications, ‘reserved matters’ submissions or fully detailed applications on any grant of permission shall have regard to the stated requirement for a dwelling to serve the functional requirements of the holding at the time of submission of the application. Reduced periods of one year will normally be imposed for the submission of ‘reserved matters’ following the grant of outline permission and one year thereafter to commence implementation of the permission.
♦ The Authority will look particularly carefully at any applications seeking to renew permissions which have not been implemented contrary to the stated ‘proven agricultural need’ for a dwelling at the time of determination of the original application and on which basis planning permission was originally granted. On any renewal, a fresh agricultural appraisal will normally be required and the Authority will need to be satisfied that there continues to be a proven agricultural need for the proposed dwelling or mobile home, particularly in the light of the advice set out in PPG7 regarding renewals of temporary permission. In appropriate circumstances, the use of Revocation Orders will be considered.
♦ A permanent dwelling depending on the imminent or future construction of additional farm buildings or additional stocking will not be approved, nor will a Section 106 Agreement to secure either or both be appropriate. There must be evidence of a sustained viability and need over a reasonable period such as to warrant the additional dwelling.
♦ Where a new dwelling is demonstrated as being essential to support a new farming activity, whether on a newly created holding or an established one, it should normally for the first three years be provided by a caravan or other appropriate temporary accommodation. In such cases there should be clear evidence of a firm intention and ability to develop the enterprise (for example, significant investment in stock and new farm buildings), a clearly established existing functional need, clear evidence that the proposed enterprise has been planned on a sound financial basis, viability is likely to be achieved within a short period, the functional need could not be met by another suitable and available dwelling or building in the area and other planning requirements are otherwise met (for example, siting, design and access).
♦ The siting of the new farmstead will be a major consideration in the establishment of a new holding and any new dwelling will not normally be approved in advance of the commitment of sufficient capital (for example, the erection of agricultural buildings) towards the establishment of the holding. In appropriate cases and in all cases where there exists no dwelling on the holding, the Council will request a statement from the applicant indicating how the holding has been created.
♦ Whenever possible, suitable existing buildings on the holding should be converted to meet the agricultural need. There will be a presumption against new dwellings where suitable barn conversions are available at the farmstead or where conversions have previously been disposed of separately from the holding.
♦ The sale of buildings suitable for conversion to an agricultural dwelling, as well as existing dwellings, will be taken into account in any assessment of agricultural need, and may be regarded as evidence of a lack of agricultural need.
♦ Any agricultural dwelling should be unobtrusively sited, normally adjacent to the existing farmstead, share the same access and be effectively screened by the local topography/landscape features. Particular care will be required in areas of landscape, ecological, geological, archaeological or historic importance.
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The size and location of any agricultural dwelling should be commensurate with its intended use as farm workers accommodation; namely, the farm’s financial standing (income generated by the farm business) and the identified functional need. As a guideline, it is considered that a dwelling of approximately 140 square metres (1500 square feet) maximum combined ground and upper floor area (excluding garage) would reasonably meet any functional need to accommodate a farm worker.
The design and materials of any agricultural dwelling should reflect the traditional character of vernacular building in the locality.
The Authority will impose an agricultural occupancy condition on both the new dwelling and any existing farm dwellings relating to and needed in connection with the holding, not previously tied to agricultural occupation and in the control of the applicant or applicant’s family, where it is demonstrated that a further dwelling is essential. The imposition of such conditions will help prevent the severance of dwellings from holdings and protect the character of the countryside.
The Authority will use Section 106 Obligations in the circumstances noted in paragraph 2.23 to ensure that agricultural dwellings are retained to meet a genuine agricultural need.
Any such occupancy conditions will not be removed on a subsequent application unless it is shown that:-
a) the long term needs for dwellings for agricultural workers, on the particular holding, site or elsewhere in the wider locality, no longer warrants its reservation for that purpose; and
b) a reasonable and sustained attempt has been made to appropriately market the property at a price that reflects the occupancy condition and the general state of the housing market.
The Authority will monitor the operation of the agricultural occupancy condition and take enforcement action in appropriate cases.
When work has commenced on the construction of an agricultural dwelling, but has ceased for a prolonged period of time, consideration will also be given to the serving of a Completion Notice should it be considered expedient to do so in appropriate cases.
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APPENDIX A Other Appeal Decisions by the Secretary of State for the Environment
Over three days in June and July 1989 a Local Inquiry was held to hear four appeals relating to agricultural workers dwellings at the following:-
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Solitation Farm, Tawstock, ref 4197 Beara Charter Farm, Marwood, ref 1928 The Downs, Chittlehampton, ref 4470 OS 3625, Knowle, Braunton, ref 3967
The decisions of the Inspectorate appointed by the Secretary of State were issued on 4 September 1989 and the Planning Department suggested that his report, firstly, offered support for practices already adopted by the Council, and secondly, gave alternative advice on certain issues which arise with applications for agricultural dwellings. It was suggested that a consideration of the Inspector’s report offers a good opportunity to rehearse the issue associated with applications for agricultural workers dwellings and to consider matters of policy which could be incorporated into policy guidance note.
The Inspector in determining the 4 appeals had regard to these factors and also made a number of further points.
1. Although the appellants solicitor argued that the imposition of an agricultural tie on an existing dwelling:
♦ was inappropriate because it had financial implications; and ♦ was unreasonable and should only be applied in areas of the highest scenic value,
the Inspector concluded it was right and proper to impose such a condition to prevent severance from the holding and protect the character of the countryside. Even though the landscape was not covered by any special designation, ‘ordinary’ Devon countryside warranted protection for its own sake.
2. The Inspector noted that in one case the Council were prepared to grant permission subject to a Section 52 Agreement regulating the construction of farm buildings and the stocking of the holding. The Inspector stated he took a more stringent view of agricultural justification than the Council, stating, and adding that if the relevant Ministerial Circulars test is to be meaningful ‘the mere prospect of viability is not enough’, adding that if the relevant Ministerial Circulars Test is to be meaningful ‘there should be evidence of sustained viability over a reasonable period’. To permit a dwelling at such an early stage, even with a condition which regulated stocking, was considered inappropriate by the Inspector, there could be difficulties in enforcing that type of condition and circumstances could change with the Council quite possibly being faced with considerable difficulty in resisting an application for removal of the restrictive condition at a later stage.
3. The Inspector dismissed these appeals where the holdings were fragmented and dwellings were proposed on the off-land. He stated:
‘... there is a need for great caution in considering the location of and need for dwellings to serve holdings which comprise several scattered parcels of land. My caution is founded on National Policy ... the Annex to Circular 24/73 underlines the need for particular care in assessing proposal for new dwellings on bare land’.
4. The Inspector concluded that it was unreasonable to impose an agricultural occupancy on a dwelling owned by a third party (in 2 appeals on this point, Devon County Council). Although it may be convenient to site a dwelling on the applicant’s own land, the
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Inspector did not agree that this amounted to an overriding agricultural need and dismissed both appeals.
5. The Inspector commented on erecting a dwelling on fragmented holdings and on part owned holdings which used the viability of tenanted land to secure a dwelling on the owned lands:
‘... I accept that the combination of the appeal site and the (tenanted) South Molton land could create a viable holding if they were farmed differently. However, the two areas of land are very far apart. To permit a dwelling on one area might well give rise to pressure for a further dwelling on the other, off-lying area in order to facilitate its management. Alternatively, it is quite conceivable that the appeal site could be severed from the tenanted lands and subsequently by the addition of relatively restricted owner-occupied area to the tenanted lands, history could repeat itself. A similar case could then be made for another agricultural dwelling elsewhere’.
6. The viability of one holding was seen as dependent on the annual purchase of a substantial acreage of grass keeping. The Inspector considered that this did not amount to sufficient viability so as to warrant a further dwelling.
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APPENDIX B DEVELOPMENT PLAN POLICIES
POLICY CDE1 ‘Normally not to permit new residential development in the countryside outside
towns and villages, unless on the merits of the particular case, there is a genuine agricultural, forestry or horticultural need. In considering other types of development in such locations, regard will be had to the need to protect landscape and historic features, and the need to encourage rural enterprise’.
POLICY H4 ‘Residential development in the countryside will not be provided for except where:
1. there is a genuine agricultural, forestry or horticultural need, or
2. it results in the conversion of disused or redundant buildings of historic or architectural interest, provided that the conversion would achieve the conservation of those buildings and be sympathetic to the rural character of the buildings and the surrounding area and not give rise to unacceptable traffic’.
The proposed changes to the North Devon Local Plan, prepared under the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 as amended by the Planning and Compensation Act 1991, includes policy guidance on the provision of dwellings for agricultural workers. The advice is based on experience within the District and puts forward considerations against which individual applications for agricultural workers dwellings are to be assessed. Those criteria are based on the revised PPG7 and the Secretary of State’s findings relating to appeals into agricultural workers dwellings within the district. The relevant Policies DH6, DH7, DH8 and DH9, which incorporate the proposed modifications to those policies, are set out below.
POLICY DH6 ‘New agricultural or forestry workers dwellings in the countryside will not be permitted unless:
a) a sustainable agricultural or forestry need for the dwelling is established;
b) the proposed dwelling is well related to the whole of the holding having regard to the agricultural purposes for which it is intended, and where possible is also sited close to existing farm building(s) and/or other dwelling(s);
c) the size of the proposed dwelling is no greater than the minimum required to satisfy the functional need that has been established;
d) there are no other building(s) suitable for conversion on the holding, and/or no appropriate alternative accommodation existing or with planning permission available either on the holding or in the locality, which could be used to satisfy the need that has been established; and
e) a dwelling which has served the holding has not recently been severed or sold off from the holding’.
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Devon County Structure Plan (Third Alteration) Approved 10 March 1994
Devon County Structure Plan (First Review) Deposit Version Published November 1996
North Devon Local Plan Deposit Version Published 15 February 1996
POLICY DH7 ‘The Council will impose an occupancy condition:
a) on all dwellings permitted on the basis of a justified agricultural or forestry need; and
b) on any existing dwelling(s) which are clearly associated with the agricultural functioning of the holding and under the control of the applicant where it is demonstrated that a further dwelling is essential’.
POLICY DH8 ‘Where the sustainability of an agricultural holding has not been established at the time of determining a planning application for an agricultural dwelling, temporary planning permission for a mobile home will not be permitted unless:
a) it is considered that sustainability will be achieved in a short period of time; and
b) it is not in conflict with the principles contained in criteria b), d) and e) of Policy DH6’.
POLICY DH9 ‘An agricultural occupancy condition will not be removed on a subsequent application unless it is shown that the long term need for a dwelling for someone solely, mainly, or last working in agriculture, both on the particular farm and in the locality no longer warrants its reservation for that purpose’.
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The following background papers have been used in the preparation of these guidelines:-
♦ DOE. Revision to PPG7 (1997) ‘The Countryside – Environmental Quality and Economic and Social Development’. HMSO, London.
Mobile homes and Caravans.
♦ NDDC. ‘Agricultural Workers Dwellings. Development in Rural Areas’. The Policies and Design Guidelines of North Devon District Council (adopted 16 January 1990 and 20 March 1990).
♦ CPRE (Council for the Protection of Rural England) (1990) ‘A Place in the Country’.
♦ Holt, G (ed) ‘Development Control Practice’ (1988) Ambit Publications Ltd.
♦ Land Use Consultants and Countryside Planning and Management ‘Planning Controls Over Agricultural and Forestry Development and Rural Building Conversions’ (1995). HMSO, London.
♦ ‘Enquiry into the Planning System in North Cornwall District’ (1993). HMSO, London.