Agents Eye Column – May

21st May 2013

Fresh opportunities for rural businesses as new planning regulations introduced

The Government has recently announced that they are bringing in new permitted development rights for agricultural buildings on 30th May 2013. Farmers and other landowners will be able to consider changing the use of agricultural buildings to non-agricultural uses such as shops, restaurants, offices, storage and distribution, and even hotels without the need for planning permission.

The landowner will however need to apply to their local council for prior approval for any proposed changes of use in the majority of cases. The prior approval process has many benefits over a standard planning application with far lower planning application fees and generally a far speedier decision making process.

A few points to note:

  • The proposed changes do not allow for change of use to residential from agricultural use
  • The new regulations apply to buildings of up to 500 sq m only
  • Material alterations to the external appearance of the building could still trigger the need for a full planning application
  • The buildings in question must have been solely in agricultural use since 3rd July 2012
  • The provisions do not apply to listed buildings or scheduled monuments.

For buildings between 150sq m and the 500 sq. m threshold your local Council is required to have regard to potential issues such as transport impacts, noise generation, land contamination, and flood risk before issuing the prior approval.

This is a huge opportunity for farmers and other landowners with buildings which may be suitable for conversion, as such projects may provide a valuable source of additional income to a farm business. There are a wide range of options now available and I would urge anyone with potentially suitable buildings to consider the new regulations and how taking advantage of them could enhance their current business.

Another interesting and potentially controversial provision in the regulations is an ability to change use from offices to residential without planning permission. You would still need to go down the prior approval route but for those of you who own offices and feel that there may be demand in your area for new housing stock, this could be a lucrative provision. The offices in question must be lawful (i.e. benefit from planning consent) and have been occupied as offices in the past and preferably immediately prior to the 30th of May 2013. This provision will be revoked in 2016.

Finally, and not directly related to agriculture, the new regulations also increase the size of residential extensions permissible without getting full planning permission. For example, planning permission may not be required to extend a detached property by 8 metres from the rear wall of the original dwelling. However, a form of prior approval will be required in many instances for this type of development and many other caveats apply. I would recommend that you speak to a planning consultant or your local council’s planning department for advice when considering such a project.

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