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Farmers will be able to convert their unused buildings into new homes and shops thanks to new planning laws. The major changes give farmers... Changes to planning rules make it easier to diversify

Farmers will be able to convert their unused buildings into new homes and shops thanks to new planning laws.

The major changes give farmers across England greater freedom to diversify and grow their business, says the government – without having to spend time and money submitting a planning application.

Growers and livestock producers will be able to convert agricultural buildings and land into new businesses, such as outdoor sports facilities, larger farm shops and farm training centres, as well as housing.

Changes to permitted development rights were announced shortly ahead of the general election following a government consultation. The goal is to deliver more homes for rural communities remove unnecessary barriers to development.

Housing and planning minister Lee Rowley said: “Farmers are the lifeblood of communities, and these changes give them the freedom to grow their businesses, and plan for their futures.”

Top priority

Defra farm minister Mark Spencer said: “I am extremely pleased to support our farmers and provide them the freedom to decide the best uses for buildings on their land, without needless bureaucracy holding them back.

“We are listening to farmers and putting them at the heart of future development of our rural areas. Helping farmers secure their businesses and get on with the important job of producing food is our top priority.”

The changes extend permitted development rights so farmers can diversify and convert agricultural buildings to commercial uses – as well as up to 10 homes – without needing to submit a planning application.

The changes include doubling the amount of floorspace that can change from agricultural to ‘flexible commercial use’ from 500m2 to 1000m2.

The size of new buildings or extensions that can be built on farms over 5ha has inceased from 1000m2 to 1500m2. For smaller farms,  the size of such developments has increased from 1000m2 to 1250m2.

The changes double the number of homes that can be delivered through the conversion of agricultural buildings from five to ten.

To protect nationally important archaeological sites , Defra as removed the ability for extensions to be built and new buildings erected in the vicinity.

The government said the changes were subject to space and natural light conditions to ensure homes are suitable. It said the changes would turbocharge rural housing development, with just 5000 homes delivered on farming land since April 2014.

‘Not far enough’

Country Land and Business Association deputy president Gavin Lane said the changes to permitted development rights were but did not go far enough to stimulate rural growth.

“We welcome the news that farmers and landowners will now be able to convert agricultural buildings into a higher number of dwellings, and of a greater size, and that buildings can be more flexibly re-used for other commercial uses.”

But he added: “It is bitterly disappointing to see Class Q permitted development rights won’t be expanded to National Parks and Landscapes. [This] would enable much needed development and help stimulate growth in the rural economy.”