Farmers are keen to make use of proposed planning changes that would allow them to turn farm buildings into residential ones without the need for a planning application.
A quarter of English farmers would be interested in using proposed new rules on residential conversions and have at least one suitable building, an NFU survey has found.
These views are reflected in the union’s response to a Government consultation on the issue, which supports the proposals but calls for some changes.
These include the importance of ensuring tax rules don’t disadvantage farmers, flexibility so at least some listed buildings are eligible for conversion, and for provision within the rules to protect tenanted farm businesses from undue interference.
NFU chief rural affairs adviser David Collier said the NFU was pleased with the response from its members.
“It is clear from the responses to our survey that farmers will be keen to make use of the concession, that in the main they will be using it to provide family accommodation, and they can be trusted to approach all this very responsibly.
“There is likely to be a good, early response should the concession be confirmed, with two-fifths keen to complete a conversion within two years.
“We fear, however, that ministers’ ambitions could be thwarted by the rules on listed building controls. There are around 30,000 agricultural buildings in England listed in their own right, and a similar number of listed farmhouses.
“We have a particular concern about farm buildings that are subject to listed building controls merely because they happen to be in the curtilage of a listed farmhouse and were built before 1948.
“There could be more than 100,000 farm buildings excluded for this reason. There are around 100,000 commercial farms in England, so this is a significant number.”
The survey, of 261 NFU members selected at random, showed that of those interested in converting, two-fifths would want to change the use of a building within two years.
Three out of five would want to house a family member, while one in three are interested in creating a holiday let, and one in five would want to sell on the open market.
Others would be interested in providing accommodation foran employee or retired worker, or let the dwelling other than for holiday purposes.