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Farmers and landowners could find it easier to convert old buildings into new homes following changes to permitted development rights. The UK is facing... New rights could make diversification easier

Farmers and landowners could find it easier to convert old buildings into new homes following changes to permitted development rights.

The UK is facing a national shortage of good quality and affordable homes, so a raft of new measures have been suggested to stop unnecessary planning red tape slowing down the delivery of new properties.

One of the ways the Government is proposing to make the planning system more efficient and effective to overcome the shortfall in housing supply is by amending permitted development (PD) rights.

Some of these proposed changes apply to agricultural permitted development and, if made law, new legislation will soon allow farmers to diversify the use of buildings and deliver new housing on their land without the need for a long and arduous planning process.

More conversions

The first planned changes are to the size and number of Class Q homes – agricultural buildings converted into dwellings – which can be delivered by a farmer.

This will allow more homes to be delivered, and expand the type and location of buildings that can benefit from the right as well as extending the scope of works that can be undertaken.

Government proposals are to simplify regulations to a single maximum floorspace of 100 or 150m2 per home, while the maximum number of homes increasing from five to 10 per agricultural unit with an overall maximum floorspace changing use of 1000sqm.

This encourages farmers to deliver a greater number of smaller homes on their land, by re-using existing buildings and thereby reducing the pressure to build homes on greenfield sites, says Ms Tucker.

“It’s worth noting that whatever building you would like to convert into a dwelling must be suitable for conversion. Full demolition and rebuild is not allowed.

“Permitted works for a barn conversion include things like the installation or replacement of windows and doors or adding water, drainage, gas and electricity supplies.”

Rear extension changes

The proposed changes suggest that rear extensions to Class Q conversions be allowed. Previously, any increase in the size of the original agricultural building was not allowed but this could be waived in the future.

This could allow single storey extensions of up to 4m to the back of a building if the land is already hard-surfaced (for example if it’s a farmyard), with any extension falling within the overall floorspace limit.

Whatever dwellings farmers have planned, the existing agricultural building must comply with minimum space standards (a floorspace of 37sqm) before being granted permission to be developed.

The proposed new Class Q PD rights could be extended to apply to National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty with a view to delivering more rural homes in such locations through the re-use of underused buildings.

The proposed allowance for rear extensions would not apply in these locations and World Heritage Sites are not included within the areas benefitting from this proposed expansion of the PD rights.

Changes to permitted development rights seek to bring back into use agricultural buildings which are no longer part of an established unit.

Under the proposed changes, planning for a change of use could be granted permission, for example, for a barn which was once part of a working farm, but is no longer part of the main agricultural unit.

There are also proposed changes to the PD rights allowing changes of use of buildings  from agricultural to commercial use (Class R). This includes extending the legislation to buildings currently used for forestry or equestrian use.

It would allow different uses, such as outdoor sports or fitness or the processing of raw goods which have been produced on the farm and will be sold on site. It could also allow a mix of uses and a doubling of the allowable floorspace to 1,000sqm.

Extending your business

You may want to extend or build more properties on your farm for your own agricultural use, and under the proposed changes, there could be greater flexibility to do this.

Class A of Part 6 – which permits the building or extension of agricultural buildings and excavation and engineering works on units of 5ha or more – could be amended to increase the size limit by 500 square metres.

This would allow for any new building or extension erected to include other such development within the last two years to cover up to 1,500m2 of ground area.

Class B of Part 6 (relating to smaller units of less than 5ha) could also be amended to raise the ground area limit within the rolling two year period to 1,250m2, up from 1,000m2.

Suzanne Tucker is a partner at Shropshire law firm FBC Manby Bowdler