9 August 2002

Lifted tie sees big oast house boost

A 100-acre Sussex farm is on the market following the rare lifting of an agricultural occupancy restriction on a converted oast house.

Permission to convert the building on Platnix Farm, Westfield, had been applied for in 1966 by a previous owner, but was turned down on the grounds that planning policy at the time did not allow for new houses in the countryside unless for farming purposes.

According to Charles Clark, of local firm Charles Clark & Co, the owners re-applied claiming that they needed a farm manager, and permission was granted subject to an agricultural occupancy restriction although they were never required to prove this need.

"The property was sold to my client in the 1970s and the farmhouse was sold to raise funds to convert the oast in 1984. It was now subject to a tighter restriction also tying it to the land but they were farming anyway, and didnt think any more about it."

Mr Clarks clients husband died 12 years ago and last year she decided to sell up after a sheep farmer who was renting the land decided it was no longer viable. To achieve a better price the agent believed there were several grounds for applying for the removal of the restriction.

An independent valuation put the house and land without a tie at £800,000 and £600,000 with a tie. "Who could afford that and be truly able to comply with the agricultural occupancy restriction?" asks Mr Clark. "Even the councils own agricultural adviser accepted this but the application was nevertheless still refused."

On appeal, Mr Clark argued that trying to market the house for 12 months at £600,000, to someone farming locally, was a waste of everyones time and money.

The planning inspector accepted this and Platnix Farm, with its restriction lifted, is now on the open market for £800,000, with 100 acres and a good set of farm buildings.

"I think this is a very important break against what would be normal council practice," says Mr Clark. &#42