The Penalty for Building a House on Agricultural Land

Some agricultural land developments can proceed without planning permission in the United Kingdom. It’s a different story when you plan to build a dwelling on agricultural land. While building a house on agricultural land is not considered a criminal offense, it can be deemed illegal if an enforcement notice has been issued. In this article, we’ll discuss what penalties you may face if you build a house on agricultural land without planning permission.

If you build a house on agricultural land without a permit, an enforcement notice may be issued to you, and a penalty of £20,000 may be imposed by the Magistrate Court if you fail to comply. Under the Crown Court, the fine is unlimited. With noncompliance of the Breach of Conditions Notice, the penalty is £2,500.

Apart from knowing the penalty for building a house on agricultural land, it’s best to also understand the scope of such a penalty and how one becomes charged for it, which will be explained in detail as you keep reading below.


  • An enforcement notice may be issued if you built a house on agricultural land without permission from the Local Planning Authority.
  • Failure to comply with an enforcement notice may penalize you with a maximum amount of £20,000. If the case is tried in the Crown Court, the fine may be unlimited.
  • Responding to an enforcement notice immediately is necessary to avoid issues and further penalties.

You Can Be Fined for Building a House on Agricultural Land

Although agricultural land can be used not just for farming purposes but also for building a single-family home, in the United Kingdom, such instances will require planning permission. Failing to provide a planning permit or meet conditions under it may push your Local Planning Authority into action.

Planning permission can be two things: permitted development, which is granted under the General Permitted Development Order 1995 (GPDO) and has limitations and conditions, and express permission which is granted upon submission of a planning application to the Local Planning Authority.

Developments that will require planning permission in accordance with the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 include operational developments, such as building or engineering works, and works that change the use of land from agricultural to residential.

Any developments that fall under the above-mentioned cases that fail to comply with planning conditions may be considered a breach of planning control and may trigger the Local Planning Authority to act.

Minor works that only entail interior changes and do not necessarily change the appearance of the building are not considered “developments”, which means no necessary action must be taken by the Local Planning Authority.

Building a house on agricultural land does not necessarily equate to a criminal offense. In fact, it can be legalized and regularized if the owner can submit a planning application to the Local Planning Authority (LPA). The LPA can then impose conditions that will make the developments acceptable.

Negotiations can also be done between the Local Planning Authority and the developer or landowner to ensure the cessation of works, or the LPA can impose planning conditions that the developers may try to meet.

If the above options have been taken, then formal action in the form of an Enforcement Notice or Breach of Condition Notice will be issued. In cases where the damage is huge, a Temporary Stop Notice and/or Stop Notice can be issued.

  • If an enforcement notice has not been complied with, this will include prosecution proceedings or direct action. Cases of noncompliance must proceed to trial in the Magistrate’s Court and can be fined a maximum of £20,000. In the Crown’s court, however, the fine for such an offense is unlimited.
  • If a Breach of Condition Notice (BCN) has been issued and no reasonable steps have been taken to comply, authorities may pursue a prosecution proceeding. Failure to comply with a BCN will result in a maximum fine of £2,500.
  • If a stop notice has been served with an enforcement notice, due to unauthorized development causing significant harm to public safety or amenity, a maximum penalty of £20,000 is imposed.
  • An injunction may be sought through the Country Court or High Court if the unauthorized activity persists. More severe penalties can be imposed after this, and failure to comply can lead to an unlimited fine and/or imprisonment.

As mentioned above, if an enforcement notice has not been complied with and a breach of planning control is continued, the offender can be prosecuted for further breaches and fined daily for as long as the breach continues.

In cases of major, harmful planning breaches, “direct action” can be taken as a remedy despite the major fines imposed. In direct action, contractors may enter a site and physically remove a building or an extension. All profits made by the developer during the unauthorized development will be confiscated.

To recover the costs incurred, any land with a served enforcement notice is subjected to a land charge which is recoverable anytime the land is sold in the future. Any subsequent purchaser of the land must be aware of it, otherwise, they will be charged with non-compliance.

Steps To Avoid Being Penalized When Building on Agricultural Land

As mentioned above, any development on agricultural land is not abruptly considered a breach, and therefore no action or notice will be made. It’s also not considered a criminal offense right then, but will only be considered one once notices are out and no responses or actions have been taken. To avoid being penalized, the following steps are necessary for you to follow:

  1. Respond to an enforcement notice immediately. Many cases of a breach in planning control are not intended and are sometimes just a result of ignorance of planning requirements. If you received an enforcement letter, the best thing to do is to respond as soon as possible in a positive and informative manner.

  2. Submit a planning application to legalize your development. If a complaint regarding your development has been made, and if you think that the development is acceptable to the Local Planning Authority, you may apply for planning permission. To find out more on how to obtain planning permission, read this article.

  3. Allow planning enforcement officers to visit your site of development to investigate an alleged breach of planning. To gather more information on an alleged breach of planning control, enforcement officers are deployed following an enforcement notice. Stopping them from entering your alleged land will force them to obtain a warrant. If a warrant has been secured, any obstruction to accessing the site will now be considered a criminal offense and will further have you penalized.

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