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Planning Change is Welcome News

View profile for Adele Holliday
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The Housing Minister has announced recently that permitted development rights relating to agricultural buildings in our rural communities, are to be extended.

Farmers and land owners have long been voicing opinions about the complicated, unpredictable and inflexible planning processes for the conversion of farm buildings and the building of new homes on agricultural land.  The process has not appeared to deliver consistent decisions, and with the pressing shortage of affordable housing in villages up and down the country, many have felt for a long time that change was needed. 

The Country Land and Business Association published results of a survey of their members last summer, which revealed that whilst ‘42% are planning on building up to two new homes on their land in the next five years, 63% would build more if there was greater support to work through the planning process’. 

Rural areas are attractive not just to holiday makers and those who have been brought up in those villages, but also to younger families who recognise the benefits of living in close knit communities with thriving local businesses, good schooling and a general feeling of camaraderie.  Finding property which is within budget has, however, been a struggle for many as the demand is often out-stripping supply. 

So, the announcement earlier this month from Housing Minister Dominic Raab will be welcome news to many farmers and land owners who have been considering developing land and buildings to provide affordable homes within their local areas. 

Permitted development rights (PDR) allowing the conversion of agricultural buildings for, amongst others, residential use came into effect in 2014.  The rights are subject to conditions and limitations to control impact and to protect local amenity, and in certain cases, even though a development is permitted, prior approval of some issues is required from the local authority.  This can include, for example, issues such as the construction of private driveways and access roads. 

However, many local authorities were still refusing applications for prior approval and this prompted further guidance being released to support the PDR in 2015.  This followed complaints that even with a rise in applications to convert barns into residential dwellings, only 1 in 3 were approved.   The 2015 guidance sets out clear tests of reasonableness to be applied by the planning authorities when considering prior approval applications for developments which fall under the PDR.  For example the fact that an existing ‘agricultural building [which is the subject of a conversion application], is in a location where the local authority would not normally grant planning permission for a new dwelling, is not a sufficient reason for refusing prior approval’. 

Presently, under the PDR, an agricultural building can be converted into a maximum of three homes.  The changes, which come into effect on 6th April this year, will increase that maximum number to five, and will allow for:

  • Up to three larger homes within a maximum of 465 sq. m.
  • Up to five smaller homes, each no larger than 100 sq. m.
  • Combination of both above options - no more than five homes (with no more than three of those being larger homes).

Dominic Raab, MP, stated in his announcement that to ‘..further support housing delivery, applicants will have a further year in which to benefit from the temporary permitted development right for the change of use of buildings used for storage and distribution to residential use’.  The right will be extended by one year until 10 June 2019.

It is hoped that local authorities will use the guidance which will come with the new PDR in April, to its full extent, thus allowing our farmers to take full advantage of the additional housing permitted.  Housing which will ultimately be home to new generations of families, who will become part of the village life that so many of us are lucky enough to enjoy every day.

For any help and advice with your agricultural business or developments, please contact our specialist team here at Crombie Wilkinson.