Agriculture & Rural Property

Publish date

16 May 2024

Agricultural permitted development rights – change on the horizon?

A consultation which ran from July to September 2023 by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has resulted in significant enlargement to agricultural permitted development rights moving forward. We examine the changes to Permitted Development rights (PD rights) coming into effect on 21st May 2024 by The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) Order 2024 and what it could mean for your agricultural property.

What are permitted development rights?

In essence, PD rights enable certain building works and changes of use to be carried out without the need for planning permission. PD rights are granted under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 2015 (GPDO). In terms of agriculture, the most pertinent PD rights are changes of use granted by classes Q and R of part 3 of schedule 2 and part 6 of schedule 2 of the GPDO relating to agricultural and forestry. We outline how these classes work and how they are set to be extended by the Government’s recent announcement.

Class Q – conversion of agricultural buildings to residential dwellings

At present, class Q permits former agricultural buildings to be converted into a plethora of residential dwellings. However, this is heavily dependent on the timing of the agricultural use. Specifically, the building must have been in sole agricultural use on 20th March 2013 or earlier. If a building doesn’t meet this criteria, then a period of at least 10 years must have passed before the class Q PD right can be relied upon.

However, the government has now extended class Q to former agricultural buildings which are no longer on an established agricultural unit and it is now only required to show the building was in agricultural use from the 24th July 2023 rather than the 20th March 2013. These two changes will dramatically increase the number of agricultural properties that would qualify to be converted into residential premises without the need for planning permission.

Similarly, extensions of former agricultural buildings are now permitted as part of a conversion. This is provided the extensions are single storey, sited to the rear of the building and are no longer than 4m long and 4m high (or not higher than the existing roof height).

Moreover, under current rules, a proposed development falling within PD rights can include 5 small dwellings (max 100m2 each), or 3 large dwellings (max 465m2 each) or a mix of both. The Government has now increased the number of dwellings which can be provided under class Q from 5 small dwellings to 10,  and has increased the maximum potential floor area from 865sqm to 1000 sqm.

Part 6 of schedule 2 of the GPDO (agriculture and forestry) class A & B

Limits on the size of new farm buildings which can be erected under PD rights will also increase with the Government proposals. The Government splits agricultural units into two categories:

  • Class A applies to holdings of 5 hectares or more. The PD rights currently allow for additional buildings of up to 1000sqm provided it is not within 25m of a road. The Government consultation will increase this by 500sqm to 1500sqm.
  • Class B pertains to holdings of between 0.4 and 5 hectares which currently have the same restrictions on floor space increase under PD rights. The proposals would increase this from 1000sqm to 1250sm. Moreover, for farms of less than 5 hectares, there will be an increase in the allowable cubic capacity content limit for new buildings from 20% to 25%.

Class R- conversion to flexible commercial use

The GPDO currently allows for a change of use of agricultural buildings to flexible commercial uses with a limited floor space of 500sqm. This includes shops, cafes, offices, storage, hotels and leisure uses. However, the proposals will increase the allowable increase in floor space to 1000sqm and has expanded commercial uses to include some recreational, leisure and sports uses as well as general industrial processes. The latter of which is key, as it could permit farmers to use the buildings to process raw goods from their own farms (save for livestock) to be sold on site without the need for planning permission. Your very own Didley Squat Farm Shop is now a step closer!

Shortcomings and wider impacts

It should be noted that not all of the consultation has been enacted. For those living in Protected Landscapes (i.e. National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty), the proposals to have class Q extended into these areas were rejected by ministers having briefly been considered during last year’s consultation. The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) said it was, ‘bitterly disappointing to see class Q permitted development rights won’t be expanded to National Parks and Landscapes.’, with a recent survey suggesting 58.4% of CLA members living in Protected Landscapes have buildings they wish to convert but are unable to do so under current planning rules and restrictions.

Nonetheless, the increase in rural housing is likely to be a key legacy of these Government reforms with the significant expansion of PD rights for residential dwellings under class Q. It’s no secret that a shortage of affordable housing is a critical issue in rural economies. According to CPRE the countryside charity, whilst the average cost of a rural home has jumped 29% to £419,000, rural earnings have only increased by 19% to £25,600. However, is diversifying farm buildings into housing ultimately a good thing for the agricultural sector? The reforms are not without scrutiny. The Sustain Alliance is a charitable organisation that represents approximately 100 national public interest organisations for the promotion of better agriculture and equity. The Alliance raised concerns with the Government proposals last year, stating: ‘The proposed permitted development is likely to incentivise the selling away of buildings that are still suitable for agriculture or related services.’ What’s more, this space could have been used for new entrants into an already struggling agricultural sector. Housing and agriculture are two keys issues on the Government’s agenda; is it possible that in promoting one, they are compounding problems for the other?

If you have any questions about agricultural permitted development rights, please get in touch.









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