It is widely accepted that a planning condition which restricts occupation of a dwelling to agricultural workers (an ag-tag) reduces the market value of the property. Such conditions can be very difficult to get removed, often requiring several months of unsuccessful marketing as proof that there is no demand for such restricted properties.

In many cases, such conditions are knowingly breached for a number of years on the basis that if the breach continues for ten years and the planning authority fails to take enforcement action during that time, the breach becomes immune from enforcement and occupation by someone unconnected with agriculture becomes lawful.

That was what the claimant argued had happened in a recent High Court case. The condition there restricted occupation of the dwelling to agricultural workers “…and the dependants (which shall be taken to include a widow or widower) of such persons”.

The property was occupied for over ten years by a couple and their infant children. The husband was unconnected with agriculture, but his wife kept a pedigree breeding herd of 15 cattle and was clearly an agricultural worker. However, this job made her little or no profit and she did not contribute financially to the household.

She claimed that on that basis her family were not her financial dependants the condition had been breached for long enough for it to have become immune from action. The Court, however, disagreed, finding that whilst what was meant by ‘dependant’ would vary depending on the context, there was generally no requirement for financial dependency: provision of the ‘usual family services and care’ was enough in this case to mean that the family were dependants of the agricultural worker. As such, the condition had not been breached and the ag-tag was still in force.

While other cases will vary according to the facts and the precise wording of the planning condition in question, this is a useful pointer that a "dependant" is not necessarily only someone who relies on financial support.

Shortt v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) and Tewkesbury Borough Council (2) (2014).