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Planning red tape rules have been cut for farmers

New permitted development rights for unused farm buildings have come into effect, allowing them to be converted in homes and other commercial developments without the need for planning application.

At the end of last month, the government announced new legislation that will grant landowners the power to diversify buildings and deliver new housing without the need to acquire planning permission. Now, just under four weeks later, the changes have successfully come into effect.

green farming equipment on brown field

The proposals form part of the government’s Long-term Plan for Housing, which was announced in July 2023. The desire to deliver more homes on farming land came after government figures exposed that just 5,000 homes have been created on such land since April 2014. What’s more, is this project will also produce a number of job opportunities.

Plans also outline that farms have the ability to expand the number and size of buildings on site, again, without the need for planning permission. The size limit for new farm buildings on sites over five hectares has increased by 500sqm to 1500sqm, and for farms under five hectares by 250sqm to 1250sqm. The volume allowance for extensions may also increase to 25% (from 20%) without the need for prior approval.

 Aidan Van de Weyer, senior planner at Lanpro in Cambridge, has welcomed the news as he believes these reforms will ‘bring greater flexibility to the use of rural buildings.’

‘By bringing in new residents and supporting local businesses, conversions of rural buildings – those which are currently not suitable for modern farming operations – will support the long-term vitality of countryside communities,’ Aidan said. ‘At Lanpro, we are already discussing with our clients how these changes will provide opportunities. One farming client, for example, has an unused barn building that has now been brought within the scope of permitted development and is keen for us to develop a proposal to capitalise on this change in the regulations.’

Echoing a similar tone, Rachel Hallos, vice president of the Nation Farmers’ Union, has said she ‘greatly supports’ the new proposals.

She said: ‘These changes are essential opportunities for farmers who wish to diversify their business, allowing them alternative streams of income and the ability to further support their local rural economy.’

Image: Scott Goodwill

More on this topic:

Two new housing estates could debut on Cheshire farmland

Next steps laid out for Edinburgh’s Gorgie City Farm

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