15 March 2002

Hopes high despite AOC

AGRICULTURAL occupancy conditions are frequently a sore point with farmers and landowners who are unable to achieve full open market values when selling their properties.

Agents generally reckon such restrictions knock around 30% off the value of an affected dwelling. However, Jim Hillier, of Herts firm Hillier & Son, is hoping the location of Hamberlins Farm, Northchurch, Berkhamstead, which comes with an AOC, will mitigate the impact of the tie.

Hamberlins, which is guided at £1.5m, includes a three-bedroomed bungalow, 20,000sq ft of buildings and almost 190 acres of predominantly IACS-registered land.

"The views are splendid and in this part of Herts there could be a lot of equestrian interest," says Mr Hillier, who predicts the buyer might use some of the land and buildings to run a horse-based enterprise and enter the remainder of the land into a contract farming agreement.

In some circumstances it is possible to get AOCs lifted, as was the case with Cherry Garden Farm, a 94-acre Grade 3 stock farm near Frome, Somerset.

The tie on its four-bedroomed dwelling was lifted a few years ago after an appeal and agent David Cross, of FDPSavills, reckons this has increased its value by up to 25%. The farm is on the market for £700,000.

"People are prepared to make good offers even if a farm has an AOC but often they find their lenders or solicitors are not quite so keen," says Mr Cross. Smaller holdings tend to present the biggest problems because it can be very difficult to satisfy the conditions of the tie. &#42