Agricultural Workers' Dwellings

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National planning policy currently excludes residential development in open countryside, ie outside settlement boundaries, unless there are special circumstances. Para 55 of the National Planning Policy Framework, published by central government in 2012, allows rural housing for:

  • the essential need for a rural worker to live permanently at or near their place of work in the countryside; or
  • where the development would re-use redundant or disused buildings and lead to an enhancement to the immediate setting.

This implies that while a functional need still needs to be demonstrated, the previously required financial test may not be so crucial. Nevertheless, Local Authorities may still require an Agricultural Appraisal to accompany a planning application, including:

A functional test:

  • Establish the number of workers required to meet the need, eg by using the Farm Business Survey figures of 1,900 hours per worker per year
  • Demonstrate thatthe worker(s) requiring the house must be readily available at most times for:
  • proper functioning of the enterprise
  • essential care of stock or crops
  • responding quickly in situations where serious financial loss might result

A financial test (albeit with less relevance than under previous policy):

  • Provide evidence (accounts) that the unit and the agricultural activity:
  • have been established for more than three years (during which time the essential worker may have to inhabit a temporary dwelling on the unit)
  • have been profitable for at least one of the last three years
  • are currently financially sound
  • have a clear prospect of remaining so

   Demonstrate that the proposed dwelling:

  • is of a proportionate size to the unit
  • will not cost so much as to threaten the business 

Building Regulations

All dwellings are subject to Building Regulations

If planning permission is granted for an agricultural worker’s dwelling an Agricultural Occupancy Condition is usually attached to the approval. This limits the occupancy to a person working in agriculture (but this does not have to be on the unit concerned).

Temporary Agricultural Dwellings

Temporary dwellings include caravans and wooden structures that can be easily dismantled or other temporary accommodation. Where these are required, eg to house casual workers, the Local Planning Authority can confirm if they require planning permission or fall under permitted development. See information on the ‘Changes of Use’ at the bottom of the permitted development page.

Prior to applying for a permanent Agricultural Worker's Dwelling, a temporary dwelling will probablyhave to be provided for the first three years of the agricultural activity being supported.