29 March 2002

Abolish permitted development rights enjoyed by farmers

SPECIAL arrangements which allow farmers to carry out some development work without applying for planning permission should come to an end, according to a report by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.

The commission, established to advise parliament and the public on environmental issues, has called for a shake-up of how the planning system applies to farming and forestry.

In a report, entitled Environmental Planning and published last Thursday (Mar 21), the commission called for an end to permitted development rights for agriculture.

Large buildings

"Over the years, these have allowed thousands of large, essentially industrial, buildings to appear in the open countryside without the community having any influence on their appearance or location."

The report acknowledged permitted development rights have been reduced in recent years in response to rising concern about the countryside, but it maintained the system must end.

"We recommend the withdrawal of the permitted development rights that apply to building conversions and the construction of new buildings, roads and tracks when these activities are associated with agriculture or forestry."

The issue of whether the countryside should be given more protection from changes of use which cause environmental damage was also discussed in the report. It noted the government has just introduced a consent scheme for changes to semi-natural and uncultivated land and suggested this is monitored.

"We have concluded that experience ought to be gained of that regime before further consideration is given to requiring planning permission for changes in agricultural land use."

But an idea the commission is keen to see in place immediately was a requirement for every farm in the UK receiving support payments to prepare a farm plan setting out how it would improve the environment.

The report said all bodies giving grants or exercising a regulatory function should accept the plan as meeting their requirements for information. Ration-alisation of the mass of grant schemes, production subsidies and voluntary and mandatory measures needs to be the aim. &#42