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Conversion of farm buildings to new homes made easier?

The much heralded changes to planning regulations introduce a new class MB to the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO) which comes into force on 6 April 2014. Planning Minister, Nick Boles, is hoping that this will help boost the much needed supply of new housing in rural England. The amendment to the GPDO allows for the conversion of agricultural buildings into dwellings, in certain circumstances, without the need for planning permission. What do these new rights allow? Class MB(a) provides for the change of use of an agricultural

building and any land within its curtilage to a dwelling house; and, MB(b) provides for the building operations reasonably necessary to convert the building. This order extends the existing ‘permitted development’ (PD) rights introduced in May 2013. The PD rights allow: • up to 450 square metres of floor space to be converted; • up to three additional dwellinghouses to be created; • building work and partial demolition to the extent reasonably necessary for the building to function as a dwellinghouse. These works must not extend beyond the external dimensions of the building being converted.

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What exceptions and limitations apply? Perhaps not surprisingly, the new rights are restricted by a number of exceptions, caveats and conditions and it is important to take account of all of these before proceeding. For instance, amongst the specific exclusions, development would not be permitted by this order where: • •

• • •

the site was not solely in agricultural use on 20 March 2013; the site is occupied under an agricultural tenancy, unless the express consent of both the landlord and the tenant has been obtained; the site is or forms part of – (i) a site of special scientific interest, (ii) a safety hazard area, (iii) a military explosives storage area; the building is a listed building or a scheduled ancient monument; the site is in a Conservation Area, National Park, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, or a World Heritage Site; or permitted development rights have previously been withdrawn by a condition on a planning permission or by an Article 4 Direction imposed by a Local Planning Authority (LPA).

Conditions to be applied to PD right Class MB(a) development is permitted subject to a ‘prior approval’ being granted by the LPA and the legitimate considerations to be taken into account in that decision are: • • • • •

transport and highways impacts, noise impacts of the development, contamination risks on the site, flooding risks on the site, or whether the location or siting of the building makes the change of use otherwise impractical or undesirable.

Class MB(b) development (building operations) refers to the need for a determination from the LPA as to whether or not prior approval will be required in respect of the design and external appearance of the building. Notification procedure The LPA must be notified of a change of use via the prior approval procedure to allow them to consider the proposals and associated impacts. They are required to assess if approval is required.

to conditions reasonably related to the subject matter for prior approval from the list above. If the LPA does not respond within 56 days approval is deemed to have been given. If the LPA considers it necessary (having regard to the list above) they may require a full planning application to be submitted to allow these impacts due consideration. Important considerations The new PD rights cannot be used if agricultural permitted development rights for the construction or extension of agricultural buildings have been used since 20 March 2013. Similarly, if a farm uses these new rights to convert an agricultural building to a dwelling, it will not be able to benefit from the existing permitted development rights to construct or extend agricultural buildings for a period of 10 years. How can Smiths Gore help? Now that the full details of the new PD rights have been published, it is clear that these highly anticipated changes to free up the conversion of agricultural buildings are not the panacea that many commentators predicted. The new freedoms come with a plethora of caveats and conditional requirements – some of which could mean that local planning authorities may well take the opportunity to continue to exert control. Whether you’re in northern England, the midlands, south east or south west England, the Smiths Gore planning teams are able to help you maximise the opportunity created by this new planning legislation. Our national network of rural planning professionals can be called upon to help you plot your course through these new regulations and find the best approach to meet your needs. Jo Robison considers that, “This could be a golden opportunity for rural landowners and farmers to realise the value of some of their under-utilised agricultural buildings. However, to be fully effective, in terms of creating much-needed new homes, this will require local planning authorities to take up the challenge set out by the Planning Minister, Nick Boles, and to take a far more positive approach to supporting growth in rural communities.” For specific advice and professional planning guidance on this and any other planning issues, please contact us.

The LPA may grant prior approval unconditionally or subject

Jo Robison t 01325 462966 e jo.robison @smithsgore.co.uk

Jennifer Hadland t 01325 462966 e jennifer.hadland @smithsgore.co.uk

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Planning Permitted Development Rights