Builders putting roof on an agricultural building© FLPA/REX/Shutterstock

Farmers will be allowed to increase the size of buildings and convert more buildings to housing, following changes to permitted development rights (PDRs).

PDRs allow certain building works and changes to be completed without making a full planning application.

The changes, announced by housing minister Dominic Raab on Monday (12 March), mean the size limit of new agricultural buildings under PDRs will increase from 465sq m to 1,000sq m.

See also: Housebuilding boom – what does it mean for farmers?

It will also be possible to create up to five new homes from existing farm buildings rather than the maximum of three currently permitted.

This amendment will allow for up to three larger homes within a maximum of 465sq m; or up to five smaller homes each no larger than 100sq m; or a mix of both, within a total of no more than five homes, of which no more than three may be larger homes.

Meet local housing need

The government is also giving applicants an extra year to benefit from the temporary PDR for the change of use of buildings used for storage and distribution into new homes. This right will be extended until 10 June 2019.

These planning rule changes aim to help rural communities better meet local housing needs by making the best use of their existing buildings. Hundreds of new homes are created each year through conversions of agricultural buildings and this announcement is expected to boost these numbers.

Mr Raab said: “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.”

The regulations will come into force on 6 April and support the government’s draft revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework, announced last week. 

‘Success story’

The policy changes have been mainly welcomed by the rural community, but there still remains room for improvement.

The CLA, which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses, has called permitted development a “success story” and is pleased the government has extended this policy.

CLA president Tim Breitmeyer said: “These changes will ensure farmers are better able to cope with the demands of modern farming and help to create more profitable businesses.”

However, Mr Breitmeyer warned that problems remain with significant local authority resistance to the use of permitted development rights, despite the clear policy direction.

Partner and head of planning at Berrys, Stuart Thomas, welcomed the key policy change and said the main benefit would be the ability to make five smaller homes, where he would expect to see a decent-sized two-bedroom property.

Mr Thomas added: “I hope it will incentivise the delivery of more affordable, open market housing for first-time buyers and the development of a mixture of housing, which will make use of land currently standing redundant.”

However, he also wants to see further changes to planning policy to make it easier to convert modern agricultural buildings suited to residential use, rather than being restricted to older buildings.