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New guidance for agricultural to residential planning rules

Since the government introduced new permitted development rights (subject to prior notification) for changing the use of agricultural buildings to residential, nationally over 50% of prior notification applications have been refused by planning authorities.

Many of these refusals have been on the basis that the location of the buildings have been “undesirable” for residential use. This has been because the National Planning Policy Framework (to which planning authorities must have regard) does not support isolated new dwellings in the countryside.

Of course, by their nature, most agricultural buildings are in the “countryside” that is to say outside of existing villages, and this has led to many farmers’ proposals being rejected.

However, the Planning Policy Guidance on the subject has recently been revised.

The Guidance now makes it clear that there is no test of “sustainability of location” in recognition of the fact that occupants of converted agricultural buildings will often not be able to use public transport for their daily needs.

The Guidance goes on to consider what is meant by “impractical or undesirable” for a change of use.

It says “that an agricultural building is in a location where the local planning authority would not normally grant planning permission is not a sufficient reason for refusing prior approval”.

It goes on to say “the location of the building whose use would change may be undesirable if it is adjacent to other uses such as intensive poultry farming buildings, silage storage or buildings with dangerous machines or chemicals.”

There are also considerations of whether conversion would be “impractical”.

The permitted development rules allow a limited amount of building work to take place, but essentially the building must be capable of conversion. The rules do not allow for what would amount to a “re-build” so this will limit the type of buildings which can benefit from the permitted development rights, probably to “traditional” barns.

There are all sorts of other limitations and conditions to be considered, but the clarification that a countryside location where planning permission would not be granted for a new dwelling is not a “show stopper” will no doubt be welcomed by many farmers.

Exeter Planning