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Farmers to win new development rights

The Government has tabled legislation to cut red tape faced by farmers looking to diversify their business and convert surplus buildings into housing. 

The Order will come into force on 21 May unless Parliament objects (which is not expected). It expands permitted development rights affecting farmers – rights to develop land without the need to seek planning permission from the local council – and is one of the outcomes of a consultation held last year on additional flexibilities to support housing delivery, agriculture and other sectors. 

As set out in the explanatory note, the Order: 

“amends four existing permitted development rights that allow for agricultural development and the change of use of agricultural buildings. The changes will support the agricultural sector and rural communities by providing further flexibility for farmers to undertake works on their agricultural units, enable development of former agricultural buildings, farm diversification and deliver new homes without having to submit a planning application.” 

The first change will allow up to ten homes to be built on existing or former agricultural buildings with a maximum of 1,000 square metres, up from five units and 865m2. It also permits rear extensions of up to 4m on land that is already covered by a hard surface. The second allows agricultural buildings to be converted for a range of commercial uses. The third increases from 1,000 to 1,500m2 the size of buildings permitted to be developed on agricultural units of 5 hectares or more, whereas the fourth increases from 20% to 25% the cubic content by which buildings permitted for development on land of less than 5 hectares may be extended, while raising their permitted ground area from 1,000 to 1,250m2. It does, however, remove permitted development rights on scheduled monuments where, following a transition period, planning permission will be newly required. 

The Countryside Alliance believes it is unreasonable to constrain farmers from sensitively developing surplus developed land. Unlike well-resourced property developers, farmers often lack the time or the money to battle with bureaucratic planning processes. The result has been an unwelcome constraint on their ability to develop housing for their children, which is needed to make it possible for family farms to continue through generations, and potentially to raise capital while contributing much-needed rural housing. 

Environmentally conscious food production must remain the primary use of productive agricultural land, but farming needs farmers and this legislation affects only land that has been developed already. We are therefore pleased to support these changes. 

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