It is becoming more and more common for farmers to supplement their income through tourism and leisure activities. However, it is important to navigate the planning issues carefully. A recent judgment is good news for agricultural land owners planning to create leisure attractions on their land.

Details of the case

The case centred on Hendrewennol Fruit Garden near Cardiff. As well as operating as a pick your own fruit farm, the business had evolved over the years to include events at Halloween and Easter, as well as hosting activities such as children’s birthday parties and school trips.

In July last year Vale of Glamorgan Council issued an enforcement notice, which alleged that these events and activities were a ‘material change of use’ from agricultural use to a mixed-use of agricultural and leisure/recreation. The enforcement notice required the business to stop running the events and activities and restore the land to its former agricultural condition. The farm owners appealed against this decision.

The decision

In relation to the events (Halloween, Easter, etc) the owners argued that the events were temporary uses of the land and therefore allowed without permission for a maximum of 28 days per year. The Inspector agreed.

In relation to the activities (birthday parties etc), again the Inspector was on the side of the owners who submitted that the activities were ancillary to agricultural use of the land. The Inspector came to the conclusion that there was a clear link between the activities and an agricultural use of the land; fruit picking remained the principal focus of the activities and formed an integral part of them.

The farm also contained a maze, bouncy castle, and play equipment, and some other, smaller, activities such as bug-hunting and den-building were enjoyed there. The Inspector rejected the Council’s argument that this made it possible for families to have ‘a day out’ at the farm without any fruit picking being done. She decided that these activities and facilities were of a small scale and unlikely to attract visitors in their own right. They were intended to complement the use of the site’s primary function as a pick your own farm and to encourage additional trade for that purpose.

There had been no material change of use of the land for which planning permission is required and therefore there had been no breach of planning control.

What this means

Those who own, or are looking to provide, similar facilities should bear in mind that the temporary use of land (but not buildings) for no more than 28 days in any calendar year is ‘permitted development’ for these types of purposes.

In such circumstances, uses of land which are subordinate to the site’s main use may be held not to constitute a change of use of the land and therefore no planning permission will be required. However, this will always be subject to the change being ‘non-material’ – a term for which there is no strict legal definition; the question being one of fact and degree in each individual case.

Planning decisions are dependent upon the circumstances of each case and therefore expert professional advice should always be taken when considering commencing new activities on land.

Chris Tofts is a partner and head of planning at Stephens Scown LLP. To contact Chris about this, or any other planning issue, please call 01872 265100, email

This article was first published in Westcountry Farmer on 23 August 2017.