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Agricultual buildings and permitted development rights

15 April 2015

Local authorities have been slow to come to terms with the new Class MB permitted development right which allows agricultural buildings under certain circumstances to be converted into residential dwellings.

Although planning permission is not required for these, a prior approval application must still be made and nearly all of them are being rejected. Typically local authorities will say that the proposed residential unit would be in an area that is “impractical or undesirable for the proposed change of use”.

Successful conversions are almost always only taking place where applicants appeal the initial decision. A recent decision by a planning inspector concluded that a footpath could provide the necessary evidence that a proposed conversion was in a sustainable location for development.

The appeal related to a building within an agricultural field outside the village of Ashbourne, Derbyshire. The applicant had appealed against the decision of Derbyshire Dales District Council to reject the request to develop the building made pursuant to the prior approval process. The council decided that the building was located outside a settlement and was not in an area that would constitute sustainable development and would, therefore, be contrary to the council’s development plan.

The inspector found that the council should not have taken the development plan into account when determining the application. Prior approval had been sought pursuant to the Order that created the new Class MB, which meant the council should only have considered representations made by the local highway authority, representations made in response to local notices and the National Planning Policy Framework, so far as it is relevant to the subject matter of the prior approval.

The fact that the appeal site was connected by a footway to the centre of Ashbourne a mile away, was material and the inspector found this meant that the site was in a reasonably sustainable location for development.

Before submitting such an application, you should seek specialist advice to ensure you are in the best possible position to succeed (at appeal even if not initially).

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