Martin Goodall’s Planning Law Blog

The following is an article which took the form of an interview with a journalist which, for reasons which are too complicated to explain, never got published. Having been written for lay readers, it omits the most common references to relevant legislation and also to decided cases, but I am hoping that readers of this blog may nevertheless think it is helpful.

NOTE: Since this informative article was written the General Permitted Development Order has been amended to allow the residential conversion of agricultural buildings. How do they overcome that problem? First of all, it’s no good thinking you can get round it by just doing a little bit of ‘hobby farming’ – keeping a few chickens or goats. What these agricultural occupancy conditions mean would be that the family’s main earner must make their living from agriculture.

It must form the larger part of their income. You will be in breach of the condition if you don’t derive most of your earnings from some form of agriculture. The only exception is if you are a retired farmer, but even then your Council would have to be persuaded that you do derive the majority of your earnings from farming before you retired.

The same would apply to a farmer’s widow. Is it possible to get these conditions lifted? Some of them are quite old, and things may have transformed since they were enforced on a property first. The property would have to have been on the marketplace for at least half a year, or preferably a year (at a substantially low price that reflects the actual fact that it is at the mercy of an agricultural occupancy condition).

Only if there have been no takers at that price after a genuine try to sell it might afterward you persuade the Council to remove the condition. After that, you could apply to the Council to remove the problem then, and offer them with the evidence of the unsuccessful advertising campaign. What goes on if an agricultural occupancy condition has not been complied with for a long period?

A breach of condition will become immune from enforcement and for that reason lawful if it has been consistently breached for a period of a decade, and if that breach is still carrying on. But you’ll have to be able to prove that the breach has continued throughout the 10-year period without interruption. Is it possible to add together the time a property has been occupied by several different owners or occupiers who don’t adhere to the condition?

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Yes, but only if they have all been residing in breach of the condition there, with out a break. If there has been a breach of the condition for quite some time, and then someone moves into the property would you comply with the condition, this places an last end compared to that breach.

If, after this, the problem again is breached once, the clock begins from zero again, and the earlier breach cannot be counted on the 10-yr period. Quite simply, you can’t add collectively two split breaches of the problem to make up the 10-yr period. There’s an more important point to remember even. But supposing a breach of the condition has continued for a decade or even more, does which have the effect of removing the condition altogether? No it doesn’t. The actual fact a breach of condition is becoming lawful after 10 years does not imply that the problem has been removed.

All that has occurred is that it has become lawful to occupy the property in breach of the condition. Can you not get a certificate to demonstrate conclusively that the problem no longer applies? These certificates can be handy if you want to establish the positioning beyond dispute. Such a certificate is ‘conclusive’, but that doesn’t imply that it applies for all time.