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Planning change announced to make it easier to convert farm buildings into homes

The UK Government is to make it easier for people living in the countryside to convert agricultural buildings into family sized more affordable homes.

The announcement on planning rule changes by Housing Minister Dominic Raab comes at a time when there is a shortage of affordable home to rent and buy in rural areas.

Changes to permitted development rights will mean up to five new homes can be created from existing agricultural buildings on a farm rather than the maximum of three currently permitted.

Currently several hundred new homes each year are created through conversions of agricultural buildings, and these changes are expected to boost these numbers further.

Rabb explained that the changes will help communities make the best use of existing buildings to help meet local housing needs more efficiently, while at the same time ensuring they remain in keeping with the character of the area and safeguard people’s privacy.

The Government is also giving applicants an extra year to convert further storage and distribution buildings into new homes that will help relieve local housing pressures.

‘We need to be more creative if we are to meet the housing needs of rural communities.
That’s why I’m changing planning rules so rural communities have more flexibility on how best to use existing buildings to deliver more much needed homes for families,’ said Raab.

‘This is part of our comprehensive reform programme to build the homes Britain needs.
The new measures will also help farmers adopt the latest innovations in modern farming practices by increasing the size limit of new agricultural buildings on larger farms from 465 square metres to 1,000 square metres,’ he added.

Permitted development rights are a national grant of planning permission which allow certain building works and changes of use to be carried out without having to make a planning application. The rights are subject to conditions and limitations to control impact and to protect local amenity.

The amended development right for the change of use of agricultural buildings to provide up to five new homes will allow for up to three larger homes within a maximum of 465 square metres or up to five smaller homes each no larger than 100 square metres or a mix of both, within a total of no more than five homes, of which no more than three may be larger homes.

Under the changes applicants will have a further year in which to benefit from the temporary permitted development right for the change of use of buildings used for storage and distribution to residential use. The right will be extended by a year until 10 June 2019.

The regulations to come into force on 06 April support the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s focus on making the most effective use of land or buildings in the draft revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework, announced recently.

The CLA which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses, has campaigned for change to help increase the number of homes available in rural areas and welecomed the announcement. It said that converting farm buildings into homes has been a success story of recent years.

‘Permitted development is a success story. It shows how greater certainty and clearer rules can unlock investment potential and provide a boost to rural businesses and communities. We are pleased the Government has listened to us and extended this successful policy further but now need to see it used more widely with local authorities following the right granted,’ said CLA president Tim Breitmeyer.

‘Changing permitted development rights to increase the size limit of farm buildings will ensure farmers are better able to cope with the demands of modern farming and help to create more profitable businesses. This, along with the increased ability to build more desperately needed homes by converting existing farm buildings will reinvigorate rural communities and help to build a stronger, more sustainable countryside,’ he explained.

However, Breitmeyer warned that problems remain with significant local authority resistance to the use of permitted development rights, despite the clear policy direction given by the Government. ‘We have seen an increase in the number of applications for new rural homes being bought forward, but too many are still being refused. We will continue to work with the Government and local authorities to promote the positive impact of these types of conversions,’ he added.