Planning permission red tape slashed for farmers in England

Farmers will be able to convert their unused buildings into new homes and shops thanks to new planning laws that come into effect today (21 May).

The latest permitted development rights give farmers across England greater freedom to diversify and grow their business, without having to spend time and money submitting a planning application.

This means they can adapt agricultural buildings and land for new business ventures, including outdoor sports facilities, larger farm shops and farm training centres, as well as housing.

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These new powers come a week after the Farm to Fork summit, where the prime minister reiterated the government’s commitment to backing farmers.

Minister for housing, planning and building safety Lee Rowley said: “Farmers are the lifeblood of communities, and these changes give them the freedom to grow their businesses, and plan for their futures.

“This is all part of our long-term plan for housing to deliver more homes for rural communities and reform the planning system, removing unnecessary barriers to development.”

The key changes include:

  • Doubling the amount of floorspace that can change from agricultural to flexible commercial use from 500sq m to 1,000sq m. 
  • Increasing the size of new buildings or extensions that can be built on farms of more than 5ha from 1,000sq m to 1,500sq m.
  • For smaller farms, increasing the size of such development from 1,000sq m to 1,250sq m.
  • Doubling the number of homes that can be delivered through the conversion of agricultural buildings from five to 10.
  • Protecting nationally important archaeological sites (scheduled monuments) by removing the ability for extensions to be built and new buildings erected in the vicinity.

Defra farming minister Mark Spencer has welcomed the new legislation, saying: “I am extremely pleased to support our farmers and provide them the freedom to decide the best uses for buildings on their land, without needless bureaucracy holding them back.”