Planning policy often demands a 12-month marketing exercise to test demand when the lifting of a restrictive condition or a change of use is proposed. In a recent appeal, however, (DCS Number 200-009-877) the inspector decided that the period should be extended to take account of lockdown periods during the pandemic.
This case involved the removal of an agricultural occupancy condition from a bungalow in Nottinghamshire, granted planning permission in 1963. The inspector noted that one exception to development plan policy which strictly controlled development in the countryside was for dwellings for agricultural workers. Where such dwellings already existed occupancy restrictions would only be removed where it could be demonstrated that they no longer served a useful purpose. To fully explore whether a rural worker housing need existed, marketing evidence had to be provided demonstrating that the dwelling had been marketed at an appropriate price for a period appropriate to market conditions at the time.
Reviewing the evidence, the inspector found that the property had been continuously marketed as of the date of the hearing for a period of nearly 17 months. He noted, however, that since March last year the COVID-19 pandemic has had a considerable impact on society and the economy. The first national lockdown closed estate agents, he continued, and prevented physical in-person viewings for a period of almost two months between late March and mid-May. In the subsequent national lockdowns in November and the lockdown that began in January 2021, estate agents have remained open and in-person viewings have been able to take place. However, he found it reasonable to expect that the strong government messaging during these periods that people must stay at home would have had a dampening effect on interest and viewings.
In light of the pandemic, the advice of the council’s independent advisor was that the period of continuous marketing should be revised to a minimum of 24 months. The inspector decided that, given the restrictions in place and desire by many not to unnecessarily expose themselves to the risk of infection, the months during which a national lockdown has applied should be discounted from the period of marketing in order to test the market properly.
Dismissing the appeal, the inspector concluded that it had not been demonstrated that the condition was unreasonable and unnecessary.
There is a section on the removal of agricultural occupancy conditions at 9.4 of DCP Online.