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Permitted development rights – what are those then?

They are your right to build, extend, develop, excavate or carry out engineering work on certain sites without going through the full planning permission process. These rights are set out in detail in a statutory instrument (no 418, 1995) known as The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995.

What rights do these give me as a farmer?

Permitted development on units of 5ha (12 acres) or more of agricultural land is known as Class A development. This allows you to erect, extend or alter a building, including excavation or engineering operations, all of which must be reasonably necessary for the purposes of agriculture within the unit.

Typically this includes hard surfacing for field access and farm tracks and the building of machinery stores and grain stores, as long as they meet certain conditions governing siting, size and in some cases materials.

Diversification involving a change of use of land or buildings needs full planning permission and isn’t covered under permitted development rights as it is not related to agriculture.

What else is not allowed?

There must be no development:

  • On a separate parcel of land that is less than 1ha (2.5 acres) and which is part of the agricultural unit
  • Where dwellings are involved
  • Where something is not for agricultural use
  • Where the ground area of the building or development is more than 465sq m (except for fencing)
  • Where any part of the development is within 25m of a metalled part of a trunk road or classified road
  • Of a building (or involving work to a building) intended for or used by livestock, slurry or sewage sludge housing and within 400m of the curtilage of a dwelling. The curtilage usually means the physical boundary of the land surrounding a dwelling. If the works are within 400m of buildings within an agricultural unit (or a dwelling or other building on another agricultural unit) they are excluded from this restriction.
  • Anything involving excavations or engineering operations connected with fish farming on certain protected land types (eg National Parks).

Height restrictions also apply where the work is within 3km of the perimeter of an aerodrome. There are other conditions, too, mainly concerning removal of minerals from the site and waste materials being brought on to a site.

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What do I have to do if I want to carry out work under Permitted Development Rights?

You must apply (on the correct form) to the local planning authority for a decision on whether so-called prior approval is needed from the authority for the siting, design and external appearance of a building, work or excavation.

This application currently costs £50 (under review). You should include a written description of the proposed development, materials and a plan showing the site.

The local authority will then write to confirm whether prior approval is needed.

Where it isn’t needed, work can go ahead as long as it’s in line with the proposal submitted.

Where it is needed, the local authority may ask for more details or changes to siting, design and materials. A notice containing specified information must also be publicly displayed at the site. If it is to go ahead, the development must be started within five years or the approval lapses.

This is only a brief summary of Permitted Development Rights. Consult a planning adviser or your Local Authority to check the implications of any development.

Consultant’s tips

Although they are meant to make decisions based on siting and design, local authorities are increasingly keen to see some agricultural justification for work planned under permitted development rights, says Will Tongue of Northamptonshire-based agricultural consultant, Samuel Rose.

  • Include more than basic information on siting, design and materials when applying for a determination on prior approval. This avoids unnecessary questions from the council.
  • Give the authority full information, including elevation drawings in some cases. “It may save time and costs later,” he says. “For example, you might want to include a short statement explaining why you have chosen a particular location.”
  • One of the most common mistakes made by farmers is to assume that they have the right to build or carry out other development work on their holding without reference to anyone else.
  • If you start work without enquiring whether prior notification or approval is needed enforcement action may be taken or retrospective planning permission may be required. Or both.
  • The authority can also insist that the work goes through the full planning permission process, even though it may have been allowed under permitted development if you had followed the correct procedure.
  • If the works have already been carried out, you can’t give “prior notification” so you will have to try to retain the building through a retrospective planning application.
  • The classification of even minor roads affects the distance from the road at which permitted development can take place. So check the status of roads near the farm with your local authority to avoid time and money being wasted.
  • Don’t make changes to the planned development once work has started unless you get further approval or another notification that no approval is needed, says Mr Tongue. “Otherwise you risk at worst a potential enforcement notice requiring you remove the building.”

If you are thinking of putting up a new farm building or refurbishing an existing one, don’t miss the Agricultural Building Event on 2 April at the Bath and West Showground, Shepton Mallet, Somerset. Tickets cost £10 on the gate or £5 in advance. For more info or advance tickets ring 0845 490 0142 or visit Agricultural Buildings Show.