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Farm buildings for housing?

27 September 2013

The government has been de-regulating the planning system for some time in an effort to help boost the economy.

Permitted development rights already exist for the change of use of agricultural buildings to commercial use, and the government is now looking at the question of residential use. It is anticipated that consultation will end in October.

The specific proposal is that up to three additional dwellings (which could include flats) could be converted out of one agricultural unit.

An agricultural unit is defined as “an area of agricultural land which is occupied for the purposes of agriculture”. This definition would apply to any agricultural unit irrespective of its size, but, for the purposes of this proposal, the “unit” must have been in existence before 20 March 2013.

The aim is that there should be an upper limit of 150 square metres for each dwelling. To put that into context, that is large enough for a three bedroom house.

The government recognises that the buildings are likely to need minor external alterations and the provisions may allow for limited physical development. They may even extend to the demolition and rebuilding of a structure on the same footprint. However at this stage there are a lot of questions that remain to be clarified eg:

  •  When is an agricultural building to be deemed to be redundant?
  • Will these rights extend to portal frame structures?
  • Will you be able to construct three separate dwellings within one building?
  • How will listed buildings be treated?
  • What if such dwellings require additional space for gardens or amenity land?

As always there will be some hurdles to cross. Local authority approval will be required to ensure that the physical development complies with local planning policies on design, materials and outlook. The local authority will also want to consider other factors such as contamination and flood risks and the impact on highways.

For further information, please contact our agriculture and estates department.

Adam Hale BA (Hons), TEP, FALA
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