From the 6th April 2014 new Permitted Development rights came into effect that has allowed the conversion of farm buildings up to 450 sq metres to create a maximum of three dwellings per holding.
The new rules only apply to England and are not available for buildings in designated areas such as National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Beauty or Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
Having read through the changes it would appear the new Permitted Development rights are a positive step to utilising disused farm building that have been abandoned due to farms progressing with more modern methods of production.
However, there are various issues that will need to be investigated. An application to notify the Local Council to determine if prior approval will be required relating to the following five key issues.
- Transport and highways impacts of the development
- Noise impact of the development
- Contamination risks of the site
- Flooding risks
- 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)
Although the last issue is likely to result in disputes and disagreements between the Developer and the Local Planning Department the others are still hurdles that will need to be addressed.
Furthermore, the new Permitted Development rights state that any agricultural building can be converted with building operations ‘reasonably’ necessary to convert the building will be acceptable. This will surely be a contentious issue between the Developer and Local Planning Department and will be based on personal opinion.
Also, the Local Planning Department can request further additional details of the design or external appearance and can refuse the prior approval if they don’t support the information.
One other fundamental issue that has come to light is a self-build scheme requires a ‘Planning Approval’ to recover VAT which can not be given under a Prior Notification Application. Until H M Revenue and Customs or self-build lenders amend what documents are required VAT will not be recoverable under this scheme.
Overall, I think these changes are welcomed and should be embraced by the Rural Community. Owners of these buildings now have an opportunity to add additional accommodation for sons/daughters or as an investment to let.
However, I am unconvinced as to whether the changes will make Planning Applications easier as the five issues above will need to be addressed and consultations will be made to Natural England, Highways, Environment Officers etc for feedback.
Over recent years I have been involved in several farm building conversion projects and PPS7 (Planning Policy 7) has been the driving policy along with a robust Financial Viability Appraisal to convince the Planning department the application was acceptable. One Application was won at appeal against a stubborn Local Authority which forced them to change their opinion of similar applications thereof after.
Hopefully this will be the end of the Local Planning Departments historic, negative view on the conversion of disused farm buildings into dwellings as maybe they will begin to understand that the conversion of these will give the future rural generation a chance to remain in the countryside.
Any farmer or land owner wanting to find out more please contact Barry Tape on 01872 211645.