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Greater permitted development rights for agricultural property

The Town and Country Planning General Permitted Development (England) (Amendment) Order 2018 came into force on 6th April 2018. This Order amends the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 2015 ('GDPO') which grants planning permission for certain types of development (referred to as 'Permitted Development Rights').

As a result of these changes coming into force, there are now greater permitted development rights available for the conversion of agricultural buildings into dwellings under Class Q of the GDPO.

The new permitted development rights provide rural communities with greater development potential when converting agricultural buildings into family homes. The maximum number of new homes capable of being created from existing agricultural buildings on a farm will increase from three to five. This will allow for:

  • Up to 3 larger homes within a maximum of 465 sq. m.
  • Up to 5 smaller homes, each no larger than 100 sq. m.
  • A combination of both of the above options - no more than 5 homes (no more than 3 being larger homes).

In addition, on agricultural holdings of five hectares or more, the changes will enable buildings of up to 1,000 sq. m to be erected (in place of the previous limit of 465 sq. m).  For holdings of less than five hectares, existing buildings can be extended up to 1,000 sq. m, provided that the cubic content of the original building increases by no more than 20%.

This is good news for those looking to convert farm buildings that form part of larger complexes of buildings. However, Class Q has often found itself at the heart of the debate over recent years as to what is conversion and what is replacement.

Limits to Class Q remain. It still does not apply to National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Conservation Areas and World Heritage sites, restrictions which the Government has apparently decided not to change using the 2018 amendment Order. Further, the permitted development rights will still be subject to conditions and limitations previously imposed (e.g. the site must have been solely used for an agricultural use as part of an established agricultural unit on 20th March 2013).

In support of the latest changes to the GDPO the Government's Planning Practice Guidance has clarified that  there is no longer a specific requirement for a building to be 'structurally strong enough' to take the loading that comes with the works required to convert it. In addition, the NPPG confirms that any interior works, such as introducing a new floor or mezzanine, do not constitute 'development', and local planning authorities cannot refuse proposals due to the extent of internal work involved.

This guidance, in addition to the GDPO changes, will be welcomed by those owning agricultural property capable of conversion under Class Q and will be a significant development for anyone looking to unlock additional value for their land holding.

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