So the #NPPF might be amended to put back the Agricultural Dwellings Tests

A classic example of a policy that was solely excluded because of an arbitrary 50 page limit.  How many dozens of responses asked to keep or amend them to avoid a policy black hole.

Mark Southgate (PINS) at an Agricultural Workers Conference, according to Planning Resource

Southgate was speaking at the British Institute of Agricultural Consultants rural planning conference, which took place near Kettering in Northamptonshire.

He also told delegates that tests applied to applications for essential agricultural workers’ dwellings might reappear following the government review of the guidance that previously underlay planning policy guidance and statements. The tests were largely swept away by the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework.

6 thoughts on “So the #NPPF might be amended to put back the Agricultural Dwellings Tests

  1. Re-issuing the old PPS7 (i.e PPG7 1992!) tests may fill a perceived policy ‘black hole’ … but re-using 20+ year old tests which seem to have been deliberately designed to block ALL agricultural dwellings is a bit lazy. The old tests were devised at a time when farmers wanted to give up and thus sell as much land as possible for housing. Twenty years later the whole economic environment has changed. In fact the whole world has changed! Sure, we need a way of blocking speculative executive homes in the countryside – but the old PPS7 rules are no longer the way to do it. Focusing on the ‘process’ rather than the ‘goal’ is an error. The Petter-Harris judgement confirmed that the INTENT of a law is the main point, so infringement of a PROCESS rule must be assessed with this in mind. The PPS7 rules were never fit for purpose : we need a fairer, more honest policy.

    • Hello Richard Hathway. PPS7 I thought and hoped had been abolished, my partner and I have been fighting our council for over 4 years to get retrospective 3 years permission in a mobile home on our small hill farm. Sadly the council has always sided with the wealthy incomers who do not want local farmers to live near them, they would much prefer us to live in town and drive in every day (12 miles each way). We have spent a small fortune on legal and professional fees with appeals but the council has gone to the other side of the country to get the best specialists to trash every business plan of ours, our problem is that the financial test is very high for a small hill farm and when talking to other local farmers who all support us about how much we are meant to earn they all laugh and say ‘I wish!’. With the new NPPF we felt that it should be a little easier and that it was time to go straight for the farmhouse, we then applied for an earth shelter, zero carbon house with solar panals on the barn as we are off grid, and a biodiversity upgrade to support our farm, we farm Alpacas and free range hens for their eggs which we supply to local businesses as well as a trust box at the end of our lane for the the locals and tourists. The council still refused permission so we are going to appeal again. Having just seen that the NPPF may bring back the PPS7 tests we are very concerned, we are happy with what we are earning and we want to add more to our farm business once we have our permission which may well provide us with the agricultural wage they keep refering to, but we can’t throw more money at the business to expand it when we have no certainty that we can stay and continue with our farm, it has been really soul destroying for us. We have always made it clear that we will gladly have some kind of agri tie to the farm but the council has always argued that it is easy to remove a tie! This land has belonged to my family since I was a few months old and farmed by my parents until they had to retire thanks to old age and disabilities some 12 years ago, they sold the farmhouse and about 40 acres to buy a house to retire to. They kept the other 53 acres as the people who bought the farmhouse did not want too much land as they are not farmers. We just hope that our business is taken seriously by the next inspector.

  2. Veronica,

    PPS7 Annex A is a set of outdated guidelines which should never again see the light of day.

    Over the last few months I have been in in-depth discussions with central government over this topic.

    I anticipate a set of fairly similar – but more modern & more realistic – guidelines to be produced in due course.

    Sadly I see some problems in your case:

    1. You have a ‘track record’ of refusals with the local authority.

    2. For some reason you have little/no local support.

    3. I suspect that mobile homes may no longer be kindly regarded in support of rural developments. It could be that you may be required to build a ‘real’ house. I don’t object to this … but it will make planning permission harder to obtain and it will require higher up-front costs for successful applicants.

    As for the financial viability tests you mention : the requirement for these has gone .. although your local council may insist that they have been retained in their local plan. This is a very questionable approach … but as the Americans say “you can’t fight City Hall.”

    Sadly PPS7 Annex A etc .. and its replacement Para 55 of the NPPF .. was/is only ever a problem for those who cannot afford to buy an established house or established farm in the countryside. In other words the less well off have to go through the PPS7 hoops. You become ‘supplicants’ rather than ‘applicants’.

    With regards to professional advisers: if you could afford to outspend a local authority or a cabal of rich neighbours on legal advice then you would have been able to buy a nice established farm in the first place!

    To be frank, the whole PPS7 process is a disgrace : for decades it has allowed the well off, white, upper middle classes to seize control of our countryside.

    Anyway, none of this will really help in your case – you seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place.

    Sorry …

    • Richard
      We have got alot of support for our farm, we have had nearly 200 signitures on petitions, and at least 35 letters of support, one of which was from Prince Charles. All the locals and farmers are behind us, it is just a very very few wealthy incomers who are against us and it is them who seem to have all the influence over our district council. having spoken to one of the councillors who always supported us but is now retired, she thought that the rest of the councillors just ‘went along with our ward councillor’ who is very friendly with the few objectors we have, it doesn’t seem right to me!
      As for going for a house, we have now applied and been refused for an earth shelter (underground) farmhouse that is zero carbon and will be almost completely out of sight, most of the people that were against us have now come around apart from a couple of objectors. our Ward councillor would still not talk to us about our application though, it is starting to feel like there is a conspiracy against us.
      The government must make it easier for farmers, they should never have to go through what we have gone through, if the government wants to encorage farming then they need to start right at the basics which is planning, otherwise we will loose most of our farmers and farmland and when this country really needs food it will not be possible to produce it.

  3. Veronica, I can’t really comment on your specific situation .. although I do suspect that planning applications which have gone ‘sour’ rarely recover.

    As for the future of farming, I too agree that low carbon will become an essential goal. For example, I recently spoke to a farmer who has a huge potato farm. His weekly diesel consumption is truly astonishing. I asked what would happen if the fuel stopped coming – he said that “It would all be over, instantly.” I suspect that 95%+ of our entire farming industry is in a similar situation.

    However is a return to small scale smallholding a way forward? Sure, it’s a great lifestyle .. but can it play a serious part in any low carbon farming renaissance? I doubt it.

    I would love low-key smallholders to be able to farm as they wished, in a low-profile off-grid out-of-the-system semi-hippy way … but the real world doesn’t seem to like such operations.

    I suspect that the 1987 report “Our Common Future” (also known as “The Brundtland report”) had in right . See Section 5.3 “Integrated Rural Development”. We need smallholdings, small farms, large farms, the food industry, local and national politicians all involved in a highly integrated farming system in order to feed a population of 60+ million.

    [Sorry for hijacking your blog Andrew – I’ll leave it there!]

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