According to the NFU Scotland statistics for 2018 (link), 18,900 hectares of vegetables and 2,100 hectares of soft fruit was grown in Scotland last year, that’s more than 2,900 tonnes of raspberries and 25,000 tonnes of strawberries.
I must confess, the reported tonnage of strawberries may be slightly short owing to a couple of Hughes family outings to the PYO fruit farms of Fife last summer; but regardless, there is a huge volume of fruit and vegetables that requires to be picked, processed and purveyed.
Aside from public pickers picking their own, it is often the case that seasonal workers are employed to assist in the harvesting of crops. This edition of my planning law blog explores how farm owners may be able to provide temporary accommodation for such workers and some points to consider.
What are the rules?
It is possible to accommodate seasonal workers in caravans on agricultural land and avoid the need to obtain planning permission or a caravan site licence by relying on permitted development rights (PDR).
The relevant PDR are found at Part 5, Class 16 of The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Order 1992, and Schedule 1 of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 and permit use of agricultural land as a caravan site for the accommodation of seasonal agricultural workers during a particular season on that agricultural land.
Things to Consider
The PDR only apply if the caravans are occupied by seasonal workers, specifically on the agricultural land on which they are working….for that season (and no longer).
There is a degree of uncertainty owing to the lack of a defined term in the 1960 Act as to what exactly the extent of agricultural land is. It is evident from case law that workers housed in caravans on one site being ‘shared’ across different agricultural locations would mean that permitted development rights would fall away. This would suggest that the caravans have to be ‘on’ the land which is being harvested.
Similarly, there is no defined term for a season, which seems rational as climatic influence and the sheer variety of crops that can be harvested across Scotland make it incredibly difficult to create an effective definition. It is logical to assume that the season ends at the point at which the crop has been harvested.
Where particular crops have longer harvesting seasons, temptation to add a degree of permanence/convenience by ‘making up’ ground on which the caravans are situated with hard standing should be avoided. Such works would constitute development and suggest that the caravans are intended to be a permanent fixture. In which case, the PDR would fall away and trigger a requirement for planning permission and a caravan site licence to be obtained.
There is no requirement for prior notification to be made to the Local Planning Authority ahead of utilising the PDR. However, in the event of there being any uncertainty, it is worthwhile speaking to a legal professional to provide you with an opinion.