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Last edited 10 Sep 2020
Permitted development rights for the change of use of agricultural buildings
Generally it is up to a local planning authority to decide whether to allow a particular development or not. However central government can permit certain types of developments known as permitted developments. These are generally minor changes to existing properties.
Permitted development rights (PDR) allowing the conversion of agricultural buildings for flexible use, educational use and residential use were introduced in April 2014. However, it was felt that the associated guidance gave local authorities too much discretion to turn applications down.
In 2015, the guidance on permitted development rights for conversions of agricultural buildings was strengthened, following complaints that whilst there had been a rise in the number of applications to convert barns into homes in 2014, only one in three had been successful. This was described as a ‘scandal’ by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).
The 2015 guidance makes clear that whilst the terms, ‘impractical or undesirable’ are not defined in the regulations, local authorities ‘…should apply a reasonable ordinary dictionary meaning in making any judgment. Impractical reflects that the location and siting would “not be sensible or realistic”, and undesirable reflects that it would be “harmful or objectionable”.’
It goes on to state that, ‘When considering whether it is appropriate for the change of use to take place in a particular location, a local planning authority should start from the premise that the permitted development right grants planning permission, subject to the prior approval requirements. That an agricultural building is in a location where the local planning authority would not normally grant planning permission for a new dwelling is not a sufficient reason for refusing prior approval.’
The guidance points out that, ‘When a local authority considers location and siting it should not therefore be applying tests from the National Planning Policy Framework except to the extent these are relevant to the subject matter of the prior approval. So, for example, factors such as whether the property is for a rural worker, or whether the design is of exceptional quality or innovative, are unlikely to be relevant.’
President of the CLA, Henry Robinson said:
"Since the agricultural buildings' PDRs came into force there has been significant demand from farmers and landowners to convert buildings on their land, but they have found themselves frustrated by inconsistent and unduly restrictive decisions to refuse conversions across the country… That is why we have been determined to get ministers to clarify the law so that all involved know where they stand when it comes to implementing the regulations. We are optimistic that this guidance will go a significant way to addressing our concerns."
In March 2018, changes to permitted development rights were announced that provide rural communities with more options to convert agricultural buildings into family homes. The maximum new homes capable of being created from existing agricultural buildings on a farm will increase from three to five. This will allow for:
- Up to 3 larger homes within a maximum of 465 sq. m.
- Up to 5 smaller homes, each no larger than 100 sq. m.
- Combination of both above options - no more than 5 homes (no more than 3 being larger homes).
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