Planning changes allow farm buildings to be converted to housing

14th March 2014

Joe Ridgeon, Planning Consultant for George F White, based in the firm’s Durham office at Wolsingham, comments on new permitted development rights to let farm buildings switch to housing without planning permission

“Redundant agricultural buildings will soon be able to be converted to houses without planning permission under changes to planning rules for new permitted development rights published yesterday [13 March 2014].

“The proposed changes, which come into force on the 6th April 2014, follow previous amendments which allowed for agricultural buildings to be changed to commercial use.

“As with current agricultural permitted development rights, developers will need to seek prior approval from the Council.

Councils will have to take into consideration the following issues:

  1. Transport and highways impacts of the development

  2. Noise impacts of the development

  3. Contamination risks on the site

  4. Flooding risks on the site

  5. Whether the location or siting of the building makes it otherwise impractical or undesirable for the building to change from agricultural use to a use falling within Class C3 (dwellinghouses).

“It is this final issue which is likely to result in disagreements between developers and Councils. While the other issues are technical considerations, which should be relatively black and white in terms of acceptability, the desirability or otherwise of a location is much more subjective.

“It is hoped that Councils will take on board the Government’s intention to encourage the creation of new housing to meet the critical housing shortage across the UK, and take a positive position when assessing applications.

“There are a number of safeguards within the legislation to ensure that development of agricultural buildings is undertaken in a suitable manner. Councils can require the submission of additional details of the design or external appearance and can refuse prior approval if they consider a proposal does not comply or insufficient information has been submitted.

“Furthermore, Councils will be able to grant prior approval either unconditionally or subject to conditions requiring further details.

“The new dwellings will also have residential permitted development rights removed, which will ensure that buildings converted under the new rules won’t be able to then extend further, for example by building porches and garages.

“The new rules will not apply in conservation areas, National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Broads and World Heritage sites. Also excluded are Listed Buildings and scheduled monuments.

“A key feature of the new permitted development rights is that it does not relate just to traditional agricultural buildings. Any agricultural building which can be converted with building operations reasonably necessary to convert the building will be acceptable. However, this is another issue over which developers and the Council may fall out.

“The change in permitted development rights is a great opportunity for rural communities and will allow redundant buildings to be brought back into use, meaning families can continue to live where they were born and protect the countryside by ensuring previously developed land is used first.

“However, developers may come up against Council’s seeking to resist new dwellings in the open countryside.”

Any land owner or developer wishing to find out more, please contact Joe Ridgeon or another member of the George F White Planning Team on 01388 527966.

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