Property which is subject to an agricultural tie will often be offered for sale at a price substantially below market value, potentially making it very attractive to a purchaser. However, it’s important to realise that removing an agricultural tie is not a straightforward process. Alistair Millar, agricultural solicitor and Partner at Tallents Solicitors in Southwell, offers some advice.

What is an agricultural tie?

“In simple terms, an agricultural tie, or Agricultural Occupancy Condition (AOC), is a planning condition which states that the property can only be occupied by someone who is ‘wholly or mainly occupied in agriculture or forestry’. This condition also applies to widowers or dependents.

“However, the wording of AOCs can vary widely, leading them open to interpretation as to their true meaning, which also makes them difficult to remove.”

Why would the agricultural tie have been imposed?

Alistair continues:

“AOCs would have been put in place to ensure suitable accommodation for farmworkers within the locality. However, as time has moved on and farming methods have changed, there might no longer be any need to provide accommodation for farmworkers and so you can apply to have the condition lifted.”

What are the conditions that must be met for an agricultural tie to be removed?

Says Alistair:

“This will depend on the exact wording of the AOC, but likely conditions could include:

  • The granting of a Certificate of Lawfulness of Existing Use or Development (CLEUD), by proving that there has been a continuous breach of the condition for an uninterrupted period of 10 years and that the breach is still ongoing. This requires you to prove that you have not undertaken any agricultural work, or recently retired from agricultural work. In this case, the CLEUD could be applied for from the Local Planning Authority. It’s worth noting though, that the successful granting of an CLEUD only suspends the AOC. If someone later moves back in, who then complies with the conditions of the AOC, then the suspension is lifted and the occupancy restrictions would apply again, including the re-set of the 10-year occupancy period.
  • Making a Full Planning Application. This is a much more complicated solution, since it involves an assessment not only of the property and surrounding land but also the locality, as you must prove beyond doubt that there is no longer any requirement to provide accommodation for farmworkers. You would need to market the property for a period of at least six–12 months at a price which reflects the AOC. If after that time, there has not been any demand for the property with the AOC conditions in place from qualifying parties, then you might be able to prove to the local Council that the AOCs should be lifted entirely.”

Alistair finishes:

“Property on agricultural land can prove very attractive for several reasons: location, an opportunity to add value by modernising the building, lack of immediate neighbours, etc., but as this area of law is complex, we do recommend you speak to a specialist agricultural property lawyer before making any financial commitments. You are welcome to call us at Tallents Solicitors on 01636 813411 to arrange a convenient appointment to discuss your wishes.”