A £1.2 million Florida-style mansion in rural Northam in North Devon, with beautiful views over the River Torridge, was originally granted planning permission as an ‘agricultural worker’s house’ in 1976, although it was completed just twelve years ago, in 2006.
The imposing house’s modern and contemporary look caused local residents to object to the design of the building as they believed the property was out of character with its rural surroundings – some even suggested that this beautiful home was perhaps too extravagant for a farm worker!
Now, a controversial and long awaited planning application to remove the agricultural tie from the luxury five bedroom property has been approved. Northam Town Council had recommended refusal of the removal of the agricultural tie, but it was granted at a planning committee meeting in May 2018. However, the decision was deferred so that an assessment of agricultural needs could be carried out.
The owners of the large manor property, known as ‘Mouna’, had been trying to sell their home for over seven years, at a discounted price that they felt reflected the agricultural tie. The removal of the agricultural tie will now allow the home owners to make a significantly large profit from the sale of the house.
The owners have claimed the property’s 29.5 acres agricultural land is too small for an agricultural holding. Sara Mendosa, a member of the Appledore Residents’ Association disagrees and believes the reasons provided are not reasonable. She said: “There is no valid reason why the agricultural tie should be removed, as it is being used for agricultural purposes at present. There is also no reason why the land attached to the property, 29.5 acres, cannot be used for agricultural purposes and it is located in beautiful open countryside.”
The valuation of the property still remains a contentious issue. The original asking price for the house and land was reputed to be £950,000, due to the limitations of the agricultural tie, but the removal of said conditions could enable the owners to sell their manor home for its suggested open market value of £1.2 million – making the removal of the agricultural tie worth £250,000.
So what exactly is an agricultural tie and, more importantly, how does it affect the purchase of property?
Agricultural ties have been in existence for around 70 years. An agricultural tie is a planning condition that has been placed on a planning approval for properties built in open countryside or rural areas, where development would not normally be permitted. The tie restricts occupancy of the house to those employed in certain jobs within agriculture or forestry, allowing them to live at or near their place of work. Some councils are now amenable to extending an agricultural tie to equestrian use.
While anyone can own a property with an agricultural tie, only those satisfying the planning condition are allowed to live in it. However, you may find it difficult to obtain finance to purchase a property with an agricultural tie.
Breaching a planning condition by living in a property with an agricultural tie but not complying with the employment conditions could lead you to be prosecuted under provisions in the Localism Act, which would enable the local council to take enforcement action.
It is possible to get an agricultural tie lifted, if the council agrees. One example might be that no-one living in the property had worked in agriculture for ten years, in which case the award of a ‘certificate of lawfulness’ would mean you would not be in breach of the condition.