Property which is subject to an agricultural tie will often be offered for sale at a price substantially below market value, especially under 30 acres where the price can be up to 30% less. These properties can also be difficult to mortgage. This is because the tie, which is essentially a planning condition imposed at the point the property was built or converted to residential use, prevents anyone other than someone who is ‘wholly or mainly employed in agriculture or forestry’ from occupying it.
Ties were imposed to ensure that there was enough suitable accommodation for farmworkers within a locality but over time and as farming methods have become less labour intensive, the need for such accommodation has diminished. This has led increasingly to properties with a tie being occupied by those outside of the farming and forestry sector.
If a property with a tie has been occupied by someone not wholly or mainly employed in the agricultural or forestry sector for a continuous period of ten years, and that breach is still continuing, then you can apply for a Certificate of Lawful Use and Development (CLEUD). A CLEUD is essentially an acknowledgement from your Local Planning Authority (LPA) that the property has been occupied in a way that it shouldn’t have been but because of the amount of time that has passed it no longer has the power to, and hence cannot, take enforcement proceedings. Obtaining a CLEUD is relatively straightforward and inexpensive but in some cases it will not by itself increase the value of the property to the same level as one without a tie. The reason for this is that if at any time after issue of the CLEUD the property is occupied again by someone employed in agriculture or forestry, then the CLEUD will cease to have effect and the condition will become enforceable again.
A more permanent solution is to have the tie removed by making a full planning application. This used to be complicated and unpredictable because you had to prove beyond doubt that there was no longer any requirement to provide accommodation for those who might benefit from the tie being in place. This would often involve approaching agricultural and forestry operators in the local area and asking them to supply evidence that they do not need the property to house their employees, that the requirements of the business that owned the property at the time the condition was imposed have changed and there are few, if any, people applying to the LPA for permission to build dwellings for the purpose of housing agricultural and forestry workers. You would also need to actively market the property for a period of at least six, and in some cases as much as eighteen months, at a price reflecting the fact that there was a tie, and show that there was no or little interest from prospective buyers, in order to be successful in having the tie lifted.
Fortunately in more recent times many Local Planning Authorities have accepted that if a CLEUD has been granted and by implication it is now lawful for occupiers to live in non-compliance with the agricultural tie, the condition fails a key test of what is reasonable and necessary and therefore should be removed. This avoids the cost and delay of a marketing campaign as well as involving others in the locality to provide evidence of need.
Caroline Gumbrell is a solicitor with over twenty years’ experience in preventing, managing and solving problems and disputes involving property and land in the agricultural and commercial sector.
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