17 August 2001

Victory may see more AOCs lifted

LIFTING of agricultural occupancy conditions could become more common after a recent planning victory by a "part-time" Devon farmer.

Farmers are keen to remove the ties because they can substantially reduce the saleability of a property by restricting occupancy to those involved primarily with, or retired from, agriculture.

Ironically, the success of the case revolved around proving that the farmer had been in breach of his AOC and was no longer mainly occupied with farming. If such breaches have occurred for 10 years or more they are deemed immune from enforcement and the tie is nullified.

Clive Beer, of land specialist FPDSavills, who acted for the producer, reckons the poor profits from farming may lead some people to inadvertently break AOCs.

"We are not advising people to break the law, but, given the poor returns from farming, it is difficult to see how many can comply. In this case the holding was only 56 acres and the farmer was supplementing his income from outside farming."

Once a tie is relaxed it can boost the value of a farmhouse by up to 60%, says Mr Beer. &#42