Dependant status debated in occupancy condition appeal

An inspector declined to issue a certificate of lawfulness for the non-agricultural occupation of a farm dwelling in Worcestershire, finding that there had not been a breach of the agricultural occupancy condition for a period of ten years.

Permission for the farm dwelling had been granted in 1975 subject to a standard agricultural occupancy condition which stated that occupation was limited to persons employed in agriculture and the dependants of such persons. The holding comprised 22 hectares and was farmed by the wife at an uneconomic level, being subsidised by the husband who did not work in agriculture. It was not disputed that the wife satisfied the occupancy condition.

The basis of the application was that the husband and two children were not dependants of the wife because she contributed nothing in the way of financial support nor had done over the preceding ten years. Thus, it was claimed that there had been a breach of the condition for ten years and the occupation was immune from enforcement.

The inspector recorded that in Fawcett Properties Ltd v Buckingham County Council [1961] it was held that the term dependants meant persons living in a family with the agricultural occupant and dependant on him or her in whole or in part for their subsistence and support. In effect, the inspector reasoned, it was being argued that the condition was in breach if any of the occupiers of the dwelling did not depend on income generated by the wife’s agricultural work.

He took the view that this was an unnecessarily restrictive interpretation of the wording of the condition, holding that in the context of people living in a family, the words subsistence and support were capable of having a non-monetary construction. Further, it would put those living with the farm worker at risk of enforcement action whenever the farm worker’s income fell below a level deemed to establish dependency, which would be a nonsense.

Inspector Paul Dignan; Written representations

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