IHTM24220 - Agricultural Holdings Act 1986: what is an agricultural holding?


S1(1) of the 1986 Act defines an agricultural holding to mean

  • the aggregate of the land (whether agricultural land or not) comprised in a contract of tenancy which is a contract for an agricultural tenancy.

Whether a contract is that of an agricultural tenancy is determined by reference to the terms of the tenancy, the actual or contemplated use of the land and 'any other relevant circumstances.’ However, the substantial use of the whole should be agricultural. So, if most of the land comprised in the tenancy agreement is let for use as agricultural land it will be an agricultural holding and protected under the legislation.

Land can only qualify as agricultural land protected by the 1986 Act if it is used for agriculture, and is so used for the purposes of a trade or business.

What is agriculture?

Agriculture is defined in AHA1986/S96 (1) as including ‘horticulture, fruit growing, seedgrowing, dairy farming and livestock breeding and keeping, the use of land as grazingland, meadow land, osier land, market gardens and nursery grounds, and the use of landfor woodlands where that use is ancillary to the farming of land for other agriculturalpurposes. ‘Agricultural’ should be construed accordingly.’

An identical definition of agriculture also appears in Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995/S38 (1) ( IHTM24240).

This statutory definition is inclusive and not exhaustive. Other purposes not listed may still constitute agricultural use. For instance, arable farming is not included in the definition but is evidently an agricultural use. However, the definition must be construed in the agricultural context in which it occurs, and by reference to those matters expressly admitted to qualify as ‘agriculture’ by the terms of AHA1986/S96 itself.

A further statutory definition is contained in Town and Country Planning Act 1990/S336 (1)

‘Agriculture includes horticulture, fruit growing, seed growing, dairy farming, the breedingand keeping of livestock (including any creature kept for the production of food, wool,skins or fur, or for the purpose of its use in the farming of land), the use of land as grazingland, meadow land, osier land, market gardens and nursery grounds, and the use of landfor woodlands where that use is ancillary to the farming of land for other agriculturalpurposes, and ‘agricultural’ shall be construed accordingly.’