Rule relaxation could be of benefit to county farmers

H and H Land and Property planner Katie Jones. Picture by Stuart Walker Photography.

H and H Land and Property planner Katie Jones. Picture by Stuart Walker Photography.

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Changes to planning rules could give a boost to farmers, a property expert says.

Since April last year several changes have come into force in national planning legislation, making it easier for farmers to obtain consent for barn conversions for diversification.

Now the Government has issued further guidance to local authorities, providing more clarity on ‘prior approval’ applications, where councils can only take into account key issues, such as access, noise, contamination and flood risk.

Katie Jones, planner at H and H Land and Property chartered surveyors, said: “There are a number of benefits for farmers, individuals and communities in the latest updates to the planning regulations, but as ever, the devil is in the detail.”

Buildings applicable for the prior approval route must be not listed, sit outside national parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and have been solely in agricultural use on March 20, 2013, or not had any other purpose since last being used in agriculture. They also have to be structurally sound as new construction would require a full application.

It is not sufficient reason to refuse permission for such a conversion if a council would not normally allow a new dwelling on the site.

Existing ‘permitted development’ (PD) rights remain for sheds or other farm developments that may not require planning permission, and ‘flexi-use PD rights’ could allow a form of diversification, including changing agricultural buildings to residential, shops, cafes, restaurants, hotels, guest houses, businesses, offices and leisure, such as indoor riding arenas.

However, there are specific requirements, including size limitation.

Rules for listed buildings and conservation areas have been tightened, and any development that could affect ‘heritage assets’ would have to be thoroughly assessed under the full planning process.

Ms Jones said it is essential for farmers to take advice when considering diversification schemes due to the complex nature of the planning rules.

“It is always best to seek advice on how the new rules will impact what you want to do before pressing ahead with a conversion or development,” she said.

“In some cases your proposals may be easier to put into action, but where you live and the size of your planned development will obviously be an important factor.”

H and H has offices in Durham and Carlisle.