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Rural planning - a window of opportunity for farmers

Friday, May 2, 2014

Rural planning - a window of opportunity for farmers

Simplification of rural planning laws in England mean that farmers will now be allowed to convert farm buildings into residential homes, subject to certain conditions. The change in the laws came into effect on April 6th 2014 with a 3 year window of opportunity in which to take advantage of the new rules.

New regulations give farmers the chance to develop up to 450 sq metres of agricultural buildings into a maximum of three dwellings with permitted changes to include new windows/doors, roof and exterior walls as well as installation or upgrade of water, drainage, electricity, gas and other services. Partial demolition is permitted in order to complete the conversion. However, the final dimensions of the new development are required to sit within the footprint of the existing building

Limitations apply to listed buildings, to sites which contain a Scheduled Monument and to designated areas such as National Parks, AONB, Areas of Special Scientific Interest and Conservation Areas. 

In all cases, applications for conversion need to be made to the Council for approval of any issues relating to transport, highway and noise impact, contamination or flood risks, suitability of the site for residential use, design and external appearance.

An application form for conversion needs to be submitted along with a written description of the proposed development and site plans. Once submitted, the Council then have a 56 day period in which to accept or decline the application. If refused, there is the right to appeal the decision.

If a farmer does decide to convert disused agricultural buildings to residential properties, it does limit his or her ability to erect any new agricultural storage buildings on the farm for a period of 10 years and this requires careful consideration before embarking on the project.

The new laws also allow for conversion of agricultural buildings up to 500 sq metres to a state-funded school or registered nursery subject to conditions. In addition planning changes introduced in 2013 permit conversion of 150 sq metres to commercial usage such as shops, restaurants/cafes, offices, hotel/meeting/leisure options. 

Farmers are advised to consider all of these options and to act now to take advantage of the changes to rural planning while the window of opportunity exists. 

For more information please contact our Surveying Department on 01494 680909.

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