Council warning over internet based sales of plots of land in open countryside

The sub-division of agricultural land into small plots for sale, usually on the internet, creates problems for communities and planning control.

The Council is concerned about this issue for a number of reasons.

  1. The plots may be divided up with pegs, stakes or fences, creating an eyesore which detracts from the open appearance of countryside.
  2. When plots are sold and no longer actively used for agricultural purposes this can lead to neglect of the site that is especially difficult to address if plot owners cannot be traced.
  3. New owners may seek to decide to undertake some minor works such as erecting fences, creating hardstandings and new accesses.

This move to selling agricultural land off in smaller plots gives rise to local concern because it can give a false impression that development of the land is inevitable, regardless of any open countryside status, planning guidance or development plan policies for the area.

There are a number of potential remedies and strategies to deal with these issues, the most common of which is the use of Article 4 Directions.

A direction under Article 4 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 ['the GPDO'] removes whichever permitted development rights are cited in the direction, necessitating a planning application for works that normally would not need one. In most cases, an Article 4 Direction does not take effect until the Secretary of State has confirmed it. Article 4 Directions can be made to remove permitted development rights which allow fences and other means of enclosure to be erected, and to prevent the stationing of caravans.

The Council is aware of the sub-division of agricultural plots in the following locations and has issued Article 4 Directions for each site:

Over the last few months there has been a significant increase in pre-application enquiries from the public seeking advice on the development potential of 2 plots of land located to the west of Hulcote village near Towcester currently being offered for sale by Vantage Land. This site, which was last used as pasture, is being promoted on the Vantage Land website as "grazing land for sale with paddock & investment potential". Although the use of the land for paddock use may be acceptable, subject to planning permission being sought and approved, the Council is concerned that the suggestion of investment potential may result in potential purchasers thinking that the land has potential for other types of development. The recent surge of interest in the site seems to substantiate these fears.

The South Northamptonshire Local Plan shows this site as being located within the open countryside and within a Special Landscape Area. Furthermore, the site also lies within a Grade II* Registered Historic Park and Garden associated with Easton Neston House and within the Easton Neston Conservation Area. National and local planning policies seek to protect land which has such historic interest and significance and the Council has previously issued an Article 4 Direction on this site which both acknowledges the amenity value of the land and further restricts the development of the land. This Direction means that planning permission would be required to erect any fences, walls or other means of enclosure on the land. Similarly, planning permission would be required to erect any buildings on the land.

Anyone interested in purchasing this land, or any other similar plots of land are advised to ensure they have a full understanding of the planning position with regard to the development potential of the site prior to purchase.

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