North East farmers on cusp of new way of making money

New planning changes will allow farm buildings to be converted to housing, opening up a potentially lucrative source of finance for farmers

Redundant farm buildings at Hawley Green Farm
Redundant farm buildings at Hawley Green Farm

New planning changes will allow farm buildings to be converted to housing, opening up a potentially lucrative source of finance for farmers.

Joe Ridgeon, a planning consultant for George F White, based in the firm’s Durham office at Wolsingham, said new permitted development rights will let farm buildings be switched to housing without planning permission.

He explained: “Redundant agricultural buildings will soon be able to be converted to houses without planning permission under changes to planning rules for new permitted development rights published last week.

“The proposed changes, which come into force on April 6, follow previous amendments which allowed for agricultural buildings to be changed to commercial use.

“As with current agricultural permitted development rights, developers will need to seek prior approval from the local council.”

Councils will have to take into consideration the following:

Transport and highways impacts of the development.

Noise impacts of the development.

Contamination risks on the site.

Flooding risks on the site.

Whether the location or siting of the building makes it otherwise impractical or undesirable for the building to change from agricultural use to a use falling within Class C3 (dwellinghouses).

Mr Ridgeon said: “It is this final issue which is likely to result in disagreements between developers and councils.

“It is hoped that councils will take on board the Government’s intention to encourage the creation of new housing to meet the critical housing shortage across the UK, and take a positive position when assessing applications.

“There are a number of safeguards within the legislation to ensure that development of agricultural buildings is undertaken in a suitable manner. Councils can require the submission of additional details of the design or external appearance and can refuse prior approval if they consider a proposal does not comply or insufficient information has been submitted.

“Furthermore, councils will be able to grant prior approval either unconditionally or subject to conditions requiring further details.”

The new dwellings will have residential permitted development rights removed, which will ensure that buildings converted under the new rules won’t be able to then extend further, for example by building porches and garages, he added.

The new rules will not apply in conservation areas, national parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Broads and world heritage sites. Also excluded are listed buildings and scheduled monuments.

“A key feature of the new permitted development rights is that it does not relate just to traditional agricultural buildings. Any agricultural building which can be converted with building operations reasonably necessary to convert the building will be acceptable,” said Mr Ridgeon.

“The change in permitted development rights is a great opportunity for rural communities and will allow redundant buildings to be brought back into use, meaning families can continue to live where they were born and protect the countryside by ensuring previously developed land is used first.

“However, developers may come up against councils which will be seeking to resist new dwellings in the open countryside.”

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