The case of Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council (Calderdale) v Windy Bank Dairy Farm Limited (Windy Bank) highlights the thin line that farmers tread in respect of planning laws when they are offered "free" use of a vehicle which displays third party advertisements.

Active Vehicle Hire Limited (Active) allowed farmers to use vehicles, emblazoned with advertisements, free of charge. The farmers could drive and park them where they pleased on their land. Active charged a monthly fee to the "sponsors" whose advertisements appeared on the vehicles. Windy Bank, which farmed land beside the M62, had used vehicles provided by Active.

Calderdale brought proceedings against Windy Bank and Active for breaching planning laws, arguing that the primary use of the vehicles was for advertising. The proceedings were dismissed and Calderdale appealed.

In considering Calderdale's appeal, the court applied a two part test, as provided for in the applicable regulations: First, were the relevant vehicles "normally employed" as moving vehicles? If not, an offence had been committed. But if they were moving then a second question would arise, namely were the relevant vehicles used "principally for the display of advertisements"?

Calderdale's scant evidence failed to satisfy the court that the vehicles had not been moved, so the court then considered the second question and concluded that the vehicles were used principally for agricultural purposes. Calderdale's appeal was dismissed.

If farmers take advantage of such a scheme then they need to be aware of the potential pitfalls, including the need to obtain planning permission for the display of advertisements. It is worth noting that the outcome of this case might have been different had Calderdale been able to adduce convincing evidence that the vehicles were stationary on Windy Bank's land.