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New permitted development rights for farm buildings

May 24, 2024

By Laura Potts, MRTPI, Planning Consultant, CAD Architects

On May 21st 2024, a significant change to planning regulations came into effect for farmers in England. Agriculture is a bedrock of local communities in Cornwall and many parts of the South West, so this change is expected to make a big difference in our region.

The new planning laws make it easier for farmers to convert their unused buildings into new homes and shops. The major changes give farmers greater freedoms to diversify and grow their business, without having to submit a planning application. This makes it easier for farmers to diversify, if they choose to.

The changes to permitted development rights mean they will be able to convert agricultural buildings and land into new lucrative business opportunities, such as outdoor sports facilities, larger farm shops and farm training centres, as well as housing.

The changes are the result of a consultation undertaken by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) between July and September last year.  The consultation sought to understand where additional flexibility could support the agricultural sector. 

The order that followed, The Town and Country Planning Amendment Order (General Permitted Development, etc) 2024, makes changes to four existing permitted development rights that allow for agricultural development and the use change of agricultural buildings.  

Minister for Housing, Planning and Building Safety 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. This is all part of our Long-term Plan for Housing to deliver more homes for rural communities and reform the planning system, removing unnecessary barriers to development.

“The Government is extending these rights to give farmers greater freedoms to diversify and convert agricultural buildings to commercial uses, as well as up to 10 homes, without needing to submit a planning application. This will help turbocharge rural housing development, with just 5,000 homes delivered on farming land since April 2014.”

The changes will:

  • Double the amount of floorspace that can change from agricultural to ‘flexible commercial use’ from 500 square metres to 1,000 square metres. (The range of uses that are covered is also increased to include the processing of raw goods to be sold onsite; the provision of agricultural training; and outdoor sports and recreation facilities within the curtilage of an agricultural building.)
  • Increase the size of new buildings or extensions that can be built on farms over 5 hectares from 1,000 square metres to 1,500 square metres.
  • For smaller farms increase the size of such development from 1,000 square metres to 1,250 square metres.
  • Double the number of homes that can be delivered through the conversion of agricultural buildings from 5 to 10. (Housing delivered through this right must meet the national space standard and receive prior approval from the local planning authority that they have adequate natural light.)

Use of these permitted development rights remain subject to their existing approvals by the local planning authority. This allows planning matters to be considered in consultation with the local community.

For example, to change agricultural buildings to homes and flexible commercial use, individuals must seek prior approval from the local planning authority for specific issues and risks including transport and flooding.

These prior approvals vary across permitted development rights. For example, to extend or erect agricultural buildings, individuals must seek approval for the building’s design and external appearance instead. 

If you are a farmer and would like advice regarding the new planning laws and converting your agricultural buildings, get in touch with us at