Agricultural Occupancy Conditions or AOCs restrict the occupancy of a dwelling to a person ‘solely or mainly working or last working in the locality in agriculture’.
This has some fairly substantial effects on the price of the property and of course the location. Read on…
For all extents and purposes, building on open countryside might as well be out and out impossible for most people. Of course there are ways around this (hint: it helps to be one of the large development companies with lots of cash) but one way the average Joe might be able to justify doing so is through special allowances made for Agricultural workers who must be based near their workplace. As a result of being tied to the business in this way, such properties are estimated to be up to 50 per cent cheaper than an equivalent without this order.
This article from the Farmers Guardian does a good job of outlining the main criteria: There must be an ‘established need’ and no other suitable alternative for a full-time worker primarily employed in agriculture (which is 275 days work a year). Also the agricultural activity must be established for three years and profitable for one – so no selling a few eggs here and there – it has to be a profitable business. Finally, it is possible to remove the order, though difficult. You may have to offer the property on the open market for a year or more, to prove that there is no demand for it.
This forum post on Moneysavingexpert has some good further discussion. You could find it easier to buy the property cash up front, as it can be difficult to find a relevant mortgage. The exact type of agricultural business specified could vary too, say some general equestrian stables versus sheep/pigs etc. The guidelines seem to vary quite a lot from one Local Authority to another Local Authority.
Finally, this slightly more renegade approach from Smallholder magazine (it’s okay, we like renegades most of the time here!) details one persons’ experience with planning departments, including AOCs. Ultimately for serious smallholders who really will make a living from the land, an AOC can drastically reduce the cost of an appropriate property. Also interesting to note it doesn’t expire when you retire and stop working the land, so you won’t get kicked out.
Interesting stuff. For more, don’t forget to subscribe.