Farmers looking to diversify could get a much needed boost, if the government adopts changes to the planning system outlined in an independent report.

The report by consultants White Young Green gives a wide-ranging review of the General Permitted Development Order, or ‘permitted development’ rights, and proposes several changes that could remove the need for planning permission in certain cases.

Of particular interest to farmers will be the proposals to free-up rural diversification and waste management regulations, Fenella Collins, Country Land & Business Association senior planning and housing adviser explained. “The report says the planning system needs to be more in tune with farmers’ needs. One suggestion is that farmers could be able to convert up to 235sq m of agricultural building space to business use without the need for planning permission [as at present]. A limit of 120sq m is proposed for farm shops, as it was felt 235 sq m was too generous and could lead to overlarge retail outlets in unsustainable locations,” she said.

Also, for farm shops, the report proposed that up to 80% of the sales area could be dedicated to produce grown within 10 miles.

It also proposed that a new section be included in the GPDO regulations to allow the erection of structures to house biomass boilers and anaerobic digesters without the need for planning permission, provided only waste generated on the farm holding was disposed of. Instead, the report suggested farmers would inform local authorities through a “Minor Development Procedure”. Local authorities would then have 28 days to respond.

“There are a number of limitations to many of the recommendations, depending on whether you’re in a National Park, conservation area, etc, but anything that will ease farmers’ route to getting these schemes up and running must be good,” Mrs Collins said.

She was unsure how likely it was that the report’s recommendations would be adopted, but said government was under pressure to make the planning system work better. It was evaluating the findings of this and a number of other recent reports into the planning process and a response was due early next year, she added.

A copy of the report can be found at http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/planningandbuilding/pdf/finalconsentsreview.pdf