Making hay

As we all know, the GPDO has all manner of curious quirks. One of them, that it is unnecessary to be making a profit in order to benefit from Class 6 permitted development rights on agricultural land, is illustrated by a recent appeal decision (DCS Number 400-030-532).

In this case the council had declined to issue a certificate of lawfulness for the provision of an access and hardstanding on Surrey farmland, determining that the land was not in use for agriculture for the purposes of a trade or business and that the operations were excessive for the activities taking place and potential future activities, and so were not reasonably necessary for the purposes of agriculture within the unit. 

The appellant explained that the business operations could be split into two main categories: the growing of grass through the year which was then sold as hay; and the farming of honey via the keeping of bees in hives. The council argued that the beekeeping activities were small-scale and, combined with a single crop of hay, maintained that the income produced was insufficient to be of a commercial scale and cover costs and maintain a livelihood.

The inspector recorded, however, that in the case of McKay & Walker v SSE & South Cambridgeshire DC [1989] it was held that if an attempt is being made to establish a farming enterprise, and there is nothing to suggest that the activity is as an eccentricity or a hobby, then lack of profit does not prevent the enterprise from being a trade or business. Further,  Kerrier DC v SSE & Stevens [1995] also held that a low level of income is not conclusive in respect of a trade or business. 

The inspector recognised that the keeping of bees to produce honey could potentially amount to hobby farming. He reasoned, however, that the five hives with forage area on site and the income generated, in combination with another site elsewhere, did not indicate that to be the case. Moreover, he found it unlikely that hay farming would be pursued on a hobby basis, accepting that to protect equipment and machinery it is preferable that it is kept on an area of hardstanding rather than grass.

The inspector concluded that the appellant’s evidence was sufficiently precise and unambiguous to demonstrate that at the time of the application the agricultural hardstanding and unbound access track benefitted from the planning permission granted by Part 6, Class B of the GPDO. 

The permitted development classes are set out at section 4.342 of DCP Online.