ARC can only hope that its questions to the YDNPA will lead to some of the loopholes being closed which have led to houses built in the open countryside being sold on the open market. During the past few months the Association has followed up on its question to the planning committee in 2012.
Its latest questions on this issue were presented at the July 2013 meeting of the planning committee. One was:
“In October 2012 Richard Graham (head of management development) informed the Association that he was considering how the Authority could best address the enforcement of conditions precedent. This followed the lifting of the agricultural occupation condition on Calf Craft at Cracoe, which he said was an unusual and complex case. Has any more been done to ensure that conditions precedent can be enforced?”
This was the Authority’s reply:
“The Calf Croft case prompted a fresh look at the use and enforcement of ‘pre-commencement’ conditions – conditions that need complying with before development commences. Non-compliance with pre-commencement conditions can, in some circumstances, mean that all subsequent development is unauthorised and conditions attached to the permission cannot be enforced.
“In considering conditions we now take a more circumspect approach to applying pre-commencement conditions and will consider whether other stages of the construction process are more appropriate as a trigger for compliance with the condition. We have also introduced a ‘start notice’ system – when the decision notice is sent to the developer it includes a form to complete and return, to notify us when works commence. This gives us an opportunity to check whether conditions have been complied with early before the development progresses.”
ARC also asked what safeguards could be built in to ensure that agricultural or forestry conditions were retained on houses in the open countryside. To this the Authority responded:
“Agricultural occupancy conditions can only be removed if a planning application is made and permission granted. Current local plan policy applies strict tests to applications to remove agricultural occupancy conditions. Policy HDP4 requires applicants to advertise the property, with the agreed restriction and at an agreed price, for at least six months. If this proves there is no need for the restriction the Authority will consider replacing it with a local occupancy restriction.
“Alternatively an agricultural occupancy condition will not be enforced if a Lawful Development certificate is granted certifying that non compliance with the occupancy is lawful. The evidence required to justify granting a Lawful Development certificate must be sufficient to establish, on the balance of probabilities, that the condition has not been complied with for the preceding ten years. This invariably involves sworn statements from previous owners and occupier and enquiries being made of the local parish council and neighbours.
“Non-compliance with planning conditions is an enforcement issue. Our approach to enforcement of conditions is currently based upon responding to complaints from the public and Parish Councils. This is standard procedure for enforcing planning control.
“Proactive monitoring of agricultural occupancy conditions could lead to the Authority discovering breaches and then taking enforcement action. However, such a strategy could also be seen as an unjustified intrusion into the private lives of occupiers of an agricultural dwelling if enquiries were made about their personal circumstances without the Authority being alerted or having any grounds to believe there was a potential breach of planning control. It would also be difficult to manage in light of current resources allocated to planning enforcement.
COME AND JOIN US: Has this report been useful? If so why not join us in the Association of Rural Communities or make a donation. And do send your comments.