New Permitted Development Rights
The government has now published the detailed legislation relating to converting redundant agricultural building to residential dwellings without the need to apply for planning consent.
In August 2013, the Government published a consultation document titled ‘Greater flexibilities for change of use’ that proposed to allow the conversions of existing barns and other agricultural buildings to residential use by extending permitted development rights.
In early March 2014, the Planning Minister, Nick Boles confirmed that he is going to make it easier to convert redundant agricultural buildings into residential dwellings as a result of the public consultation document.
New Permitted Development rights, which only apply in England, came into effect on 6 April 2014, will allow the conversion of buildings up to 450 sq metres to create a maximum of three dwellings per holding. However, these rights will not be available for buildings in designated areas such as National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) or Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).
Listed buildings are also excluded and buildings used for equine uses are generally not considered “agricultural” in planning terms, unless the horses housed in them are reared for meat or used to work the land.
To qualify for the new Permitted Development rights, the buildings must have been “used solely for an agricultural use, as part of an agricultural unit on 20 March 2013”.
Buildings brought into use after that date can only be converted once they have been used for agricultural purposes for 10 years.
Looking at the guidance, the installation or replacement of windows, doors, roofs, or exterior walls, or water, drainage, electricity, gas or other services will be allowed to the extent reasonably necessary for the building to function as a house. However works such as part demolition will only be permitted to the extent reasonably necessary to carry out building operations.
This protects the rural buildings as it precludes knocking down barns and rebuilding on their footprints as had originally been proposed. On the whole, the new Permitted Development rights are good news for the owners of farm buildings that are underutilised or no longer suited to modern agriculture, however there are still further criteria which need to be adhered to.
For example, even though owners will not need to apply for planning consent, they will still have to notify their local council to determine if prior approval will be needed relating to the issues listed below:
• Transport and highways impacts of the development
• Noise impacts of the development
• Contamination risks on the site
• Flooding risks on the site
• Design or external appearance of the building
• Is the location or siting of the building practical or desirable for the building to change from agricultural use to a house.
Also, it is worth nothing that these Permitted Development rights won’t be available to businesses that have used other Permitted Development rights to build or extend agricultural buildings since 20 March 2013 and for those utilising the new residential rights they will not be able to benefit from Permitted Development Rights to construct or extend an agricultural building for the following 10 years.
The key to the suitability of conversion is to be able to utilise what is already there and adapt it to provide a change of use rather than look to rebuild the structure. As such the building needs to be structurally sound and need little or no material change. The consultation is aiming to preserve our rural heritage by celebrating those buildings that have been used in the past but have now no longer a place in today’s society and therefore would be better suited to another use.