The site was a field in the green belt a short distance from the nearest village. The business proposal was based on a flock of 150 quail hens with a projected output of 49,500 chicks per annum. The council argued that the business would not fall within the definition of agriculture set out in section 336(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1991 and there was therefore no genuine agricultural justification for the proposal.
The inspector recognised similarities between the case and two appeal decisions cited by the council dating from 1998 and 2002, in which inspectors judged that the breeding of rats, mice, guinea pigs, and gerbils to provide food for snakes and reptiles did not involve agricultural development.
In both cases the inspectors ruled that in order to constitute agricultural development, creatures being bred must contribute either directly or indirectly to the human food chain.
The planned core activity of the business was to be the supply of chicks to falconry centres, clubs and individuals to be fed to birds of prey, with any animals they caught being returned to their handlers for their own consumption. However, the inspector noted that birds of prey are not usually kept for their contribution to the human food chain.
She considered that the proposal differed from the quoted cases in three respects:
- Quails are not so remote from the human food chain as rats, mice, guinea pigs or gerbils.
- There was a potential luxury market for eggs that would require normal hatching rather than using an incubator.
- The enterprise was not yet in operation and the indications were that it might evolve as a mixed use, supplying food for human as well as animal consumption.
Considering the case against the criteria for the assessment of proposals for temporary agricultural dwellings set out in annex I of PPG7, the inspector found a functional need due to the possibility of failure of heating or feeding systems, which could prove fatal to the chicks and hence the business.
However, the evidence did not show that the business had been planned on a sound financial basis and this justified dismissing the appeal, she ruled.
DCS No: 52262267; Inspector: Kathleen Woodling; Hearing.