Updated Regulations allow for larger scale residential development from conversions of agricultural buildings.

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On 6 April 2018, amendments made pursuant to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) Order 2018 (the New Regulations), SI 2018/343 came into force which extended permitted development rights in relation to agricultural buildings.

What is permitted development?

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. They are subject to conditions and limitations to control impact and to protect local amenity and do not override the requirement to comply with other permission, regulation or consent regimes. Examples of the types of development which are covered by permitted development are: minor operations, some changes of use, temporary buildings and agricultural and forestry buildings.

What was the previous position?

Under the 2015 Regulations, the limit on the total number of houses permitted to be converted from an agricultural building to a residential dwelling was three with a maximum floorspace of 450 square metres per dwelling.

What’s changed?

Pursuant to the New Regulations the number of houses permitted to be converted from agricultural buildings has increased. Under the New Regulations, the following conversions of agricultural buildings are now permitted:

  • Up to five small houses with a maximum floorspace of 100 square metres; or
  • Up to three large houses with a maximum floorspace of 465 square metres (a 15 square metre increase from the 2015 regulations); or
  • A combination of both up to a total of five houses of which no more than three may be large houses.

What does this mean for developers?

 It is hoped that the New Regulations will lead to an increase in the number of new homes created through the conversion of agricultural buildings and address the need for additional local housing. The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government issued a statement saying, “currently several hundred new homes each year are created through conversions of agricultural buildings, and these changes are expected to boost these numbers further. 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 fact that the New Regulations allow for conversion into either three large houses, five small houses or a combination of both provides developers with flexibility and scale not previously afforded under the 2015 regime. Whereas previously proposed schemes may have been deemed unworkable due to the restrictions in relation to floorspace and number of units, the new regime may present developers with further options for potential small-scale schemes in rural areas.

Despite the fact that a planning application is not required for ‘permitted development’, applicants looking to capitalise upon the New Regulations should be aware that in cases of conversions of agricultural buildings it may be necessary to apply to the LPA for a determination as to whether its prior approval of certain aspects of the development is required before carrying out the permitted development. Prior approval means that a developer has to seek approval from the LPA that specified elements of the development are acceptable before work can proceed.

Although the New Regulations are predicted to lead to a “boost” in numbers of agricultural conversions into residential housing, some scepticism surrounds these statements given that there has been considerable inconsistency between Local Authorities as to the interpretation of the previous 2015 regulations. Local government statistics indicate that 58% of previous applications to convert agricultural buildings into residential buildings were refused.

Whilst the New Regulations may improve the prospects of securing approval for rural developments, it is recommended that applicants seek professional advice and assistance in order to improve their chances of success.

To discuss any aspect of the New Regulations please contact a member of the Planning team.