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Agricultural Workers Dwellings


Obtaining planning permission for new permanent residential buildings for agricultural workers in the countryside can be extremely difficult.

The Guidance in PPS7 is that :

  1. there must be a clearly established existing functional need
  2. the need must relate to a full-time worker, or one who is primarily employed in agriculture ;
  3. the unit and the agricultural activity concerned must have been established for at least three years and been profitable for at least one of them. They must be currently financially sound and have a clear prospect of remaining so ;
  4. the functional need could not be fulfilled by another existing dwelling on the unit, or any other existing accommodation in the area which is suitable and available for occupation by the workers concerned;
  5. other planning requirements must be satisfied.

Various cases have attempted to look at this issue, one of the most recent being Vale of White Horse v (1) Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (2) H Walker & Son 2009. Here, a farmer applied for outline planning permission for two houses having already successfully obtained consent for two agricultural buildings to house a significant number of new animals in his existing goat business.The Council refused consent but on appeal, permission was granted by the Planning Inspector.

The Council subsequently appealed to the High Court and Mr Robin Purchas QC, sitting as a deputy high court judge, dismissed the appeal and upheld the inspectors decision to grant planning permission.

One of the important points during the hearing revolved around the meaning of "unit" and "enterprise", neither of which are defined in the guidance. The judge suggested that "a unit" was not just the land to which the planning application related, but also to "the economic collection of buildings and land". The "enterprise" was referred to as the "plan, project or undertaking which may or may not be the whole of the activity or affect the whole of the unit". The case is also important as it examines the status afforded to planning guidance and how it should be viewed by planning officers, committees and the Planning Inspectorate.

Topics :


A plan, project or undertaking which may or may not be the whole of the activity or affect the whole of the unit


The economic collection of buildings and land


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