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Greater permitted development rights for agricultural property

14 July 2020 Written by Ware & Kay Solicitors Category: Commercial property

Since the Town and Country Planning General Permitted Development Order came into force on 6 April 2018, rural communities have had greater development potential when converting agricultural buildings into residential units.

In these deeply troubled times, the greater flexibility afforded by these relaxed permitted development rights is good news for the rural community, allowing agricultural businesses to unlock additional value and utility from their land.

Farmers should be warned, however, that numerous conditions and prior local planning authority approvals are still required under the new rules, so it is a good idea to consult a professional expert to advise on available options before renovations begin.

This blog explains how the enhanced permitted development rights give agricultural businesses more flexibility to adapt existing buildings to create new housing and increase the size of their agricultural buildings without having to make a full planning application to the local planning authority.

Previously, the law allowed for the conversion of existing farm buildings into a maximum of three residential units totalling not more than 450 square metres on agricultural land without the need for full planning permission.

The 2018 Order expanded this right to allow for the conversion of existing farm buildings into:

  • three larger residential units (maximum of 465 square metres in total);
  • five smaller residential units (less than 100 square metres each); or
  • a combination of both of the two options up to a maximum of five homes, with no more than three of them being larger homes.

Additionally, the planning rules were changed to increase the size limit of new agricultural buildings on farms of five hectares or more under permitted development rights from 465 to 1,000 square metres.

Despite the relaxation of the rules, limits still remain. Such permitted development rights, for example, do not apply to national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty, conservation areas and world heritage sites. Other existing conditions and limitations are also still attached to the permitted development rights, such as the requirement that the site must have been solely been for agricultural use as part of an established agricultural unit on 20 March 2013.

When the new permitted development rights were introduced, there was initially some confusion about what could lawfully be considered a conversion, with some local authorities reportedly taking a stricter approach than others. This uncertainty was alleviated somewhat by both the courts and the Government’s Planning Practice Guidance.

In Hibbitt and Another v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Rushcliffe Borough Council (2016), the court held that for something to be a qualifying conversion, it cannot go beyond that which could sensibly be called a conversion.

This was backed up by the planning practice guidance which stated ‘…this includes the installation or replacement of windows, doors, roofs, exterior walls, water, drainage, electricity, gas or other services to the extent reasonably necessary for the building to function as a dwelling house; and partial demolition to the extent reasonably necessary to carry out these building operations.’

If you need guidance on permitted development or any other agricultural law matter, please contact us today.

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