Q: I am a farmer. A few years ago I diversified, which meant I needed less workers and a cottage on the farm was left vacant. When my son, who chose a different career, got married twelve years ago, he and his wife moved into the cottage. Now they are moving to a different part of the country and I would like to sell the cottage to fund my retirement. Is there a way I can get the Agricultural Occupancy Condition removed to increase its value?
A: There are two ways in which a landowner can seek removal of an Agricultural Occupancy Condition (AOC) from the Local Planning Authority (LPA) - either by proving there is no demand for such a property and that the AOC no longer serves a useful purpose, or by gaining a certificate of lawful development.
In your case, because the AOC has been in breach for a continuous period of ten years (because it has been occupied by a non-agricultural or forestry worker) it can no longer be enforced by the LPA. This means you are entitled to apply for a certificate of lawful development.
Your application must contain sufficient evidence to show the breach is continuous and for ten years, working back from the date of the application. Such evidence may include statutory declarations from previous occupiers, letters from the occupants' employers during the ten years which confirm that the occupants did not and do not work in the agriculture industry.
The application may be refused if at any time during the ten year period the property either been vacant or occupied by a person who complies with the AOC, or if there is no breach of the AOC at the actual time of the application. Bearing in mind the latter it is important that you submit an application before your son moves out.