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How to live on Land without Residential Planning Permission

Many ways around the law

As the numbers who cannot afford a conventional home continue to climb,there is greater interest in living off-grid as a solution to the housing crisis.  The problem is that property developers sit on available residential land, making it unaffordable for groups of ordinary people to get together and live somewhere pleasant.  Sure its always possible to move to some god-forsaken windswept piece of moorland or desert, but living off the grid should not be so miserable. Here is a summary of the rules and how to get around them: In the UK, the rules state that if you manage to live in a caravan for 10 years or a building for four years, without being discovered, the dwelling becomes ‘lawful’ and you can apply for a ‘certificate of lawfulness’. But skulking around for four years, lying to locals about your true whereabouts is hardly good for your peace of mind. Should someone complain about your dwelling, even at the 11th hour, you can be served an enforcement notice and rendered homeless. And the strategy only works for single-households making it all the more lonely. It would be hard to conceal a community for years. Another better option avaible to small groups is to buy a piece of agricultural land and submit an ‘agricultural prior notice consent form’ to the local planning office detailing the agricultural building you intend to build on your land. This is ‘permitted development’ on agricultural land and hence doesn’t need planning permission. You should receive consent within 28 days and are then entitled to commence building. You can then legally site a temporary mobile home on the land to live in whilst you build your agricultural building (and set up your business). Your temporary accommodation can remain in place while you build for up to five years  while you also develop your business. After five years you can apply for planning permission for a house. You must still prove that you need to live on-site in order to run at least part of your business, and that your overall business generates sufficient income to support you. Parts of Scotland have a long tradition of smallholding known as crofting. Although crofts for rent can be  hard to find and crofts for sale are now as absurdly priced as other housing land, the Scottish Parliament recently made it possible to create new crofts. It is now possible to buy land and apply to the Crofter’s Commission to have it crofted; the main benefit being that planning permission is generally granted for one house on a working croft. Since this legislation is relatively new it’s not clear how it will work in practice, and since the Crofter’s Commission has to consult the relevant planning office it is still possible for planning permission to be refused, so plans should be discussed with the local planning office before buying land. A legal body such as a housing co-op could purchase the land and apply to create a number of new crofts.This also applies to land owned by Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) , even if the land is not for sale. Elsewhere in Scotland a policy allows small farmers with holdings of 100 acres minimum to boost their income by creating ‘crofts’ on their land. These ‘lowland crofts’ are  aimed at ‘hobby farmers.’ In Wales the development of ‘Low Impact Dwellings’ in the open countryside is legal. Adopted by Pembrokeshire National Park Authority in May 2006 and by Pembrokeshire Council in June 2006, Policy 52 ‘…provides a context for permitting development in the countryside as an exception to normal planning policy…’ This is the policy under which the Lammas group finally achieved planning permission and is developing their site. In July 2010 the Welsh Assembly Government issued planning guidelines entitled ‘Planning for Sustainable Rural Communities‘. The guidance states that ‘Low Impact Developments’ may be located within or adjacent to existing settlements or in the open countryside. Useful Websites

20 Responses

  1. Hello,

    Very useful article!

    I’m wondering if anyone knows more about living off-grid in an agricultural barn In the Brecon Beacons National Park? I’ve heard you can do what you want to it as long as it’s for ‘agricultural’ purposes. We would love to have some kind of agricultural business there anyway…but would also love to live there at least some of the year. Does 4 years unnoticed work here as well?



  2. Hello all,
    I am thinking about buying an an equestrian facility which is for sale in the UK
    It has two large enclosures, hard standing yard and stables and workshop.
    The enclosures are timber frame with conc. floors and one had an office inside.
    Nearest neighbours to the enclosures are about 75m away behind some screening as is the country road but that is about 150m down a dog-leg track.
    The 7 acres or so of flat land was once a quarry site and has been subject to landfill tipping
    I only want to buy and live ‘quietly’ on it, as the ‘facility’ has what I want – location, space and seclusion.
    If I was to buy, should I still create an address for my new ‘home’ as suggested by ‘Arch’ using the nearest postcode. Get a tv license to confirm my starting date? Could I get away with ‘hiding’ a caravan inside an enclosure to live in?
    Any one got any ‘hands-on’ experience of doing this or something similar?
    Any thoughts?

  3. This very topic is being discussed right now on FaceBook, and i have a question. I want to buy a small plot of land to use as a base for an RV. I plan to tour for a few weeks and then return to base for a week or two, and go off again. I would be staying more than the permitted 28 days per year, but not full time. What if i purchased a small plot of land, divided it up into 12 pieces, and sold 11 pieces to family members, and registered the land sale with land registry, therefore, each parcel of land would be owned by a different person. Then with family members consent, could i stay 28 days on my land, move onto the 2nd plot of land for 28 days, and then onto the 3rd plot of land, 28 days after that? It would also make serving of notices a little difficult as well. If you were aware that the council were going to serve notice, you move to a different ‘address’ every few days. I know this sounds simple, and i’m sure someone, somewhere has tried it, but would it work?

  4. Hi
    We are beekeepers and run our business commercially. We have recently applied for retrospective planning on our 8-acre site. After the involvement of our MP (On our behalf) and almost a year of paperwork back and forth, the local planning officer has warned me last Friday that he is recommending refusal. Now this means it has not gone to the committee for official refusal yet. However, the previous owners submitted an ‘Agricultural prior notice consent form. They were approved for the building of a barn with drawings supplied. From this April there will be 1 year left on their time to live on the land and build. My question comes in two parts
    1. If refused planning does this automatically render the Agricultural prior notice consent form invalid for me to submit.
    2. Should I pull out of the planning application before it goes to committee and submit an Agricultural consent form with the previous owners’ plans and drawings that were approved?
    I think I may have answered my own question as it happens, but I am keen to soak up any input others with similar experiences may have. I will keep adding to this blog as we go along. If my experiences can help others in similar circumstances all the better.
    Cheers John.

  5. Hi, does anyone know if I can live in a caravan on my dads land. He has planning permission to build a house but we can’t afford to do that at the moment. Thank you, Reba

  6. To Simon Masters,
    Whom exactly wants you off ‘your’ Land? and for what reasoning? I own 2 acres of Greenbelt which is also an area of outstanding Natural beauty in Surrey hills England, I’m interested as to how the Laws are changing in terms of housing development land required due to Government infrastructure and growth, as the ‘marriage of land’ between Arable and Residential existing land slowly takes place(due to individual developments.)
    A simple application for ‘change of use’ can be made online, through the local authorities.
    I have neighbours which have had full planning granted, I will keep you posted.

  7. I’m in Florida. It’s not legal to live on your own land even while you have obtained building permits and are under construction. There are limits to camping even where it’s allowed. Nothing is free and many are not at all brave.

  8. I am currently living in 6 acres and getting grief of the council first join a freedom site and find out your rights the find out what laws legislation and act are you will be gob smacked alway ask what an act is ….ie town and planning act 1990 ….an act is a deed something done volontary ……you getting the picture no one can ask you questions not even the police the first thing the pllice read you uour rights…..YOU DO NOT HAVE TO SAY ANYTHING UNLESS YOU WISH TO DO SO …..dont say anhthing …..getting it ….here say is inadmissable in court and so are guesses …..look up private property ….and treaspass ….treaspass is a criminal matter ….building or living on land is a civil mater … evidence is very hagd to prove any thing …you probably wont get a lawful develpment cert but its only paper …..unless you want it to increase the value of ware you live …..then you better get used to giving oral to all government officials any advice if i can help i will charlie lucas face book

  9. Re the above in addition
    Planning enforcement do not have a remit to police the area your in, they only react to written complaints, so don’t upset anyone, create a reason to be visiting your land 24/7 sheep is a good one !
    Feel free to lie to planning enforcement like I said never never admit to living there until the time period of 4 years has passed, but make sure that you collect evidence to prove you have been living there, gas bottle delivery record, tv licence, driving licence, etc but nothing that involves the local council ;-)

  10. Hi guys, English law.
    I believe that it’s not that you remain undiscovered for 4 years re a building and use, or 10 year for any other use, it’s that enforcement action has not been taken within that time period ! A lot of planning departments are very lax, so get on and live a very low profile live, do not physically conceal what your living in as the law has changed and gives councils an extra year to take action even if you get passed the 4 year or 10 year point. If you haven’t physically concealed anything the 4 and 10 rules still stand. Creat an address for your new home at the outset use the nearest postcode and your field number. Get a tv license to confirm your starting date. But in the 4 or ten year time period DO NOT ADMIT to anyone that you are living there. Anyone out there who’s been successful regarding this type of thing we all need to hear your story’s

  11. This is a powerful topic and one that should be kept live! I am based in the UK and this post is now 3 years old. Do you have any new advice? Living in a building for four years without being detected is possible! Lets call one of them a barn. Where do I sit today?

  12. Great article. My family and and agoup of friends are trying to do this abut we have been worrying abou the rules and getting chucked of whatever land we find. So this is great. If there is anyone else who islooking to do just this same thing and your alone or with a small group also maybe we can talk bout joing together? once agin thanks for this great article

  13. Thank you Superjoe,

    Your article comes just at the right time !

    Your useful informations made things a lot clearer to me. I intend to travel in UK with my family and look for a settlement in UK. Am looking for a land.

    Thank you also to the webmaster and founder of the internetsite. Because of you, I can put a name on what I am searching for : Off the grid !


  14. What about us over here across the big pond!? We are held up by the greed land developers over here tool. What are our laws in the states?

    1. I can’t say about USA or Canada. From what I see and read from Whole Earth Catalogue its easier out there with a pioneering history. Good to reflect on #Crofting. I am 58 year old vegan, living off-grid on 3 acres of land owned by my father for 50 years, with AgSci degree and horticultural business enterprise experience: 35 years into a carbon sequestration and permaculture business plan, harvesting wild cherries this month and yet served with Enforcement! #StillTheyWantMeOffMyLand
      This is in Somerset, England 2018

      1. Hi, i am desperate to find myself some land and set up an Equestrian Livery Business. I plan to start small and then grow. I would need to set up base (as in live in moveable home ) whilst creating business etc. The only way i am going to be able to afford this venture would be to move my horses and myself onto land in order to get where i ned to be… does anyone know if this is even possible? do i need to look for specific land. If i am creating business and can prove i was hoping to then get planning for house. A long shot but i am fed up of bringing in money for those that already have the land when i could do it for myself. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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