Planning Portal

Planning Strategy for Rural Northern Ireland
Regional Planning Policies: Policy HOU 9 Farmworkers Houses

Policy HOU 9 Farm Workers Houses
The provisions of PPS 21 will take precedence over this policy.
Planning permission will be granted for a dwelling house on a farm in a Green Belt or Countryside Policy Area, where it is essential to the needs of the farm.
There is a presumption against planning permission for groups of new dwelling houses within Green Belts and Countryside Policy Areas (CPA's). There is a similar presumption against single new dwellings in these areas unless there are certain employment circumstances that make the need for a house essential. The reason for this policy is to keep new development to a minimum in order to protect the landscape and rural character, of these areas, from excessive development pressure.
Agriculture is the main economic activity and employer in the Northern Ireland countryside. Therefore, planning permission will normally be granted for a dwelling house on a farm, in a Green Belt or CPA, where the proposed occupant works mainly on that farm and it is essential for him, or her, to live at the site of their work. The proposal must fulfill normal planning and environmental considerations described in Policy HOU 8.
Whether a house is essential, in any particular case, will depend on the needs of the farm concerned and not on the personal preferences or circumstances of the individuals involved.
This strict policy only applies to farms within Green Belts and CPAs. Applications for houses on farms, outside these areas, will fall within policy HOU8.
The material factors determining the number of people who actually need to live on a farm and whether a new dwelling house is required, include:
  • the scale, viability and details of the farming operations;
  • the labour requirements of the farm, including the need for specialist workers and the level of attention needed outside normal hours;
  • the existing residential accommodation on the farm; and
  • the existing development opportunities on the farm
If the existing or potential residential accommodation is insufficient to meet the accepted housing needs of a viable farm, planning permission will normally be granted. Exceptionally, where a son or daughter of a farmer works mainly on the farm holding, permission may also be granted for a new house, even though it may not be strictly necessary on agricultural grounds for a farm worker to live on the holding. In some cases, particularly where the labour requirements of the farm are small, it will be appropriate for the parent to seek permission for a dwelling house based on retirement from farming - see Policy HOU 10.
Farmer's sons and daughters, who only work part-time in farming and have their main employment elsewhere are unlikely to fulfil the requirements of this policy.

Farm Details

Farm operations are varied and complex. It is necessary, and in the public interest, to require each applicant to provide detailed information about the farm, to allow an assessment of the application to be made as quickly as possible
The assessment will include among other things, the extent and nature of the farm enterprise, the planning history of the holding, the occupations of those residing on the holding, the occupation and present address of the proposed occupier of the new dwelling, and the change in circumstances requiring an additional dwelling. Land taken in conacre will only be considered, in the assessment of need, when it has been a regular part of a farm unit over a considerable period of years. Land newly taken in conacre will generally be excluded from the assessment, because of the temporary nature of the arrangement.
It will be necessary to establish that it is essential, for the proper functioning of the farm, for a worker to be readily available at most times. The man-hour requirements of a farm will indicate the numbers of workers required to run the business, but this does not necessarily mean that it is essential for all those workers to live on the farm. Factors such as the type of livestock, the level of attention needed out of normal hours, the need for specialist workers, the distance of units from the main farm dwelling, vulnerability to dangers such as theft and vandalism are all material in deciding need.

Farm Viability

New houses on farms will not normally be justified on agricultural grounds, unless the existing farming business is both established and viable. In order to assess farm viability, it may be necessary for the farmer to provide information on the level of investment and commitment to the business. Investment in farm buildings, or maintenance and improvement of land alone, may not be sufficient evidence of a commitment. Actual agricultural use for a sufficient period of time will be necessary.
The Department of Agriculture will be consulted on all applications for dwellings on farms and will provide advice on the viability of agricultural activities.
The onus will be on the applicant to show that the proposed occupant is sufficiently involved in farming, to be considered mainly working in agriculture on the farm, and that it is essential he or she should live there, for the working of that farm. Proposals for dwellings associated with "hobby" farms, or enterprises where the proposed occupant's main source of income is from another job or where he is semi-retired, will generally fail because of the viability test

Alternative Development Opportunities

Planning permission will no normally be granted for an additional house on a farm if there are existing houses or development opportunities available on the farm or if any houses or housing development sites have been sold off ' from the farm holding.
Development opportunities would include:
  • an existing house capable of renovation or replacement;
  • an approval for a house which has not been taken up or developed, and in certain circumstances
  • where the holding includes land outside the Green Belt or Countryside Policy Area or within the development limits of a settlement.

Siting of New Dwellings on Farms

Normally the agricultural need and the planning and environmental considerations will ensure that the new house is sited adjacent to, and integrated with the principal group of farm buildings.
If it is not essential for the additional house to be integrated with the farm complex, e.g. in the case of a retiring farmer - see Policy HOU 10, and the farm holding includes land outside the Green Belt or CPA, or inside the development limits of a settlement, the dwelling should preferably be located within that land
Where an additional farm dwelling is justified, and the location of an existing replacement opportunity is inappropriate to meet the agricultural requirements, then permission for a new farm dwelling may be granted on a more appropriate site, subject to an agricultural occupancy condition and, where appropriate, a planning condition and/or planning agreement to remove the existing dwelling and restore the site.
The siting of all new houses on farms should have particular regard to natural and established man-made features e.g. trees, slopes, buildings and field boundaries. Where practicable, access should be obtained from an existing farm road or lane. The planning and environmental considerations detailed in policies DES 4, DES 5, DES 6 and DES 7 and PSU 4, PSU 5 and PSU 9 apply.
Each house, approved on the basis of agricultural need, will be subject to a condition restricting occupation of the dwelling to a person mainly working or last working m agriculture in the locality and to any resident dependants. This is to ensure that the proposed house is kept available to meet the agricultural needs of that farm or locality.
Where an agricultural occupancy condition has been imposed, it will only be appropriate to remove it on a subsequent application, if it is shown that the long term need for dwellings for agricultural workers, both on the particular farm and in the locality, no longer warrants reserving a house for that purpose.
An occupancy condition on a dwelling, which was in a Green Belt or CPA, and is now located outside the area,because the boundaries have been redefined, will be discharged on application.
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