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Just now, Green Devil said:

Has anyone ever considered a property with an agricultural tie? They are much cheaper than those without. Surely if it comes with say an acre or so, you just put up a greenhouse or two and start growing tomatoes? 

Yes, a field would be handy, as I could just pop outside to eat and invite friends round to chew the grass with me.

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The agricultural tie is a bit complex.

Technically, you have to receive 'your income' from agriculture or forestry (or be some retired from that field).  The 'income' bit is a bit woolly, but generally it is regarded as 'more than half of your total income'.  So, you can't just say 'I grow tomatoes' if you're only making £1k from this.

And if you're not in agriculture, it is a criminal offence to be living in the property, and technically there isn't an upside to the fine that can be issued (although it generally isn't ever 'make you bankrupt'; it is usually considered enough to 'force you to sell the property').  That said, I don't personally know anyone who has been prosecuted, but know quite a few that have had AOC removed (but IME they're always the long-term owner -- people buying to 'try it on' tend to not be successful, although I'm sure it is doable).

Now, if you can prove that the AOC condition hasn't been used for 10 years (by whatever trick) then you can apply to convert to regular residential occupancy, which will work if you've got the proof and you actually are compliant with the rules.

BUT, most places for sale with AOC now have a 'change of use' clause buried in the small-print of sale, that mandates that you give the seller a decent chunk (30% is normal) of the uplift in value if the AOC is removed.  I've seen these with a 25 year life, so it doesn't go away easily.  I think the clause is triggered upon change of use and is based on an independent valuation (so you can't change it, live in it for decades and the clause expires before you get around to selling).  So, gaming the system to remove the AOC might not get you all you want even if it works.

All that said, there's lots you can do if there's lots of land with the property ('working in agriculture' might be renting out the land on a piecemeal basis and a <1 year rolling contract, for example), but options are really restricted if you're talking about a few acres or less.

I wouldn't touch AOC with <100 acres.  Well, maybe down to 50 acres if I had a decent plan.

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I'd add that councils (who'll decide on the change of use) tend to regard AOC as inviolate -- they'll not easily agree to change of use just because 'there are more houses around there now' (for example).

This actually makes sense -- farmers are given a 'free pass' wrt AOC rules --- sure, this is a bit weird in itself, but it has been the situation for years -- it is relatively easy for a farmer to put up a shack to store animal feed, etc.  So, if it was easy to remove the AOC landowners up and down the land would be filling all their fields with agricultural structures, with the aim to convert to a house (£££s) after a few years.  The 'don't allow change of use for AOC' mindset stops this from happening.

[Of course, you might think this isn't fair, but if they didn't do it agri land value would just rocket up anyway, so the low-cost-way-to-a-house wouldn't actually occur anyway, other than for those already owning the land.]

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@dgul

Thanks. That's what I am reading. You may convert your AOC if 'youve' not worked for 10 years. It's not a simple as the last Owner was 95, retired at 65 and has been growing tomatoes or playing domino's for 30 years, it's not a change of use. 

You might change its use for you but it forever tied to agriculture. 

Edited by Green Devil
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On 12/09/2020 at 12:48, dgul said:

I'd add that councils (who'll decide on the change of use) tend to regard AOC as inviolate -- they'll not easily agree to change of use just because 'there are more houses around there now' (for example).

This actually makes sense -- farmers are given a 'free pass' wrt AOC rules --- sure, this is a bit weird in itself, but it has been the situation for years -- it is relatively easy for a farmer to put up a shack to store animal feed, etc.  So, if it was easy to remove the AOC landowners up and down the land would be filling all their fields with agricultural structures, with the aim to convert to a house (£££s) after a few years.  The 'don't allow change of use for AOC' mindset stops this from happening.

[Of course, you might think this isn't fair, but if they didn't do it agri land value would just rocket up anyway, so the low-cost-way-to-a-house wouldn't actually occur anyway, other than for those already owning the land.]

The one long term punt I'd be willing to take with an agricultural tie is that the law may change and planning regs may be relaxed, but you can bet that if that was going to happen it'd get a lot of press first. 

Something similar happened with Class Q properties where you can basically convert an agricultural barn if it's been standing for X years. That's why all these ugly as sin barn and chicken shed conversions starting being converted a few years ago.

Edit. Possibly not Class Q but something else, can't remember the name.

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