Amy Slocombe Smith, specialist agriculture solicitor, explains what an Agricultural Occupancy Condition (AOC) means when buying, selling, or letting land within agricultural areas.
Commonly known as an Ag Tag, an AOC is a planning condition which limits the occupation of a property to an agricultural worker. A usual form is as follows:
The occupation of the proposed dwelling shall be limited to a person solely or mainly employed or last employed locally in agriculture as defined in section 336 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 or in forestry or the widow or widower of such a person or any resident dependants.
The wording of the AOC can vary so it is important to study the specific wording for each property. The definition of agriculture is wide reaching and includes market gardens, nursery grounds and woodland where the use is ancillary to farming. A person living in a property subject to an AOC who is not employed locally in agriculture, their widower, or their dependant, will be in breach.
An AOC can be removed at the discretion of the Local Authority. To remove an AOC an application should be made to the Local Authority for one of the following:
A Certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development (“CLEUD”) - In order for this type of application to be successful the applicant will need to show that the property has been used in breach of the AOC for a continuous period of ten years or more. If a CLEUD is granted the occupation of non-agricultural workers will be lawful.
Removal of the AOC following a Market Testing Exercise – The applicant must demonstrate that the AOC is obsolete and there is no requirement for the AOC on the property. This is can be achieved by marketing the property at a reduced price (to reflect the AOC) for a specified period. The owner should ensure that the property is advertised in relevant farming publications and also consider offering the property to rent.
Variation of the AOC – An example of this in practice is an application which was made to allow a person who worked at a garden centre to live at a property without being in breach.
AOCs are still being put in place today and should be considered when buying selling or letting land, particularly within agricultural areas.
If you have any concerns or questions about AOCs, please do contact me or a member of the agriculture team.
*This article first appeared in the January 2017 edition of British Farmer & Grower Magazine (East Midlands).