It’s no joke being a farmer in the current wintry weather conditions, so a cold-hearted attitude from the local planning authority is not likely to be met with good humour. Neither is the suggestion that one’s elderly mother should be required to vacate the farmhouse in order to make the dwelling available to the holding likely to be supported by an inspector, as a case in Yorkshire shows (DCS Number 200-007-293).
In this case the inspector noted that the appellant’s family had worked the farm for four generations over a period of some 400 years. The appellant had grown up in the farmhouse, left there when he married and had lived for a number of years with his wife and son in rented accommodation around three miles away, but this arrangement had become untenable. His 77 year old mother retained an active role in the business and lived in the farmhouse. He therefore applied for an additional agricultural worker’s dwelling.
The council recognised that the farm was a well-established business of substantial and expanding scale. However, it suggested that an annex could be provided to accommodate the appellant’s mother such that he and his family could also live in the farmhouse (thereby avoiding the need for a new dwelling). After reviewing the relevant case law set out in Keen v Secretary of State for the Environment and Aylesbury Vale District Council  and Ford and Another v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government  the inspector determined that functional need is not a simple absolute; it is also necessary to have regard to other material considerations. Whilst mindful that a functional need for accommodation depends on the needs of the enterprise rather than the personal preferences or circumstances of the individuals involved, she reasoned that the appellant’s mother had no intention of leaving the farmhouse in the foreseeable future. Therefore, there was no indication as to whether or when the farmhouse would be likely to become available.
In the absence of any firm evidence to demonstrate that the farmhouse could accommodate the appellant and his family as well as his mother (or that she would be willing to downsize or share her home), and since it would be unreasonable to require the appellant’s mother to leave, the inspector was not persuaded that the existing farmhouse was available. That being so, and taking into account the benefits that would arise from the proposal, she concluded that there was an essential need for an additional dwelling to accommodate a rural worker.
For more on agricultural dwellings see section 9.334 of DCP Online.