Scottish plans to increase the size of farm buildings allowed under permitted development rights (PDRs) and to extend rights for the conversion of farm buildings will benefit farms and rural businesses, unions have said.
The Scottish government has just closed a consultation covering a range of reforms to PDRs within the Scottish planning system.
The changes put forward include increasing PDRs for agricultural sheds to a maximum floorspace of 1,000sq m (from 465sq m) and introducing new PDRs to allow the conversion of existing buildings to either residential dwellings or commercial use.
The government has also suggested it will issue clarification over when polytunnels can be erected under PDRs and offer new guidance for planning authorities on what factors should be taken into account if a polytunnnel is subject to a planning application.
Gemma Cooper, NFU Scotland’s head of policy team, said the union had been pressing for changes to PDRs for some time so it was encouraging to see such solid progress.
“The proposal to allow larger sheds is particularly welcome as it will mean that these rights are more reflective of the needs of modern industry.”
Given the importance of the soft fruit sector to Scotland’s food and drink industry, the intention to provide further guidance for polytunnels was also a welcome move.
“We would urge Scottish government to progress with these proposals as soon as they are able.”
Scottish Land & Estates (SLE), which represents rural businesses, said the plans would offer some welcome flexibility.
However, in its response to the consultation, SLE rejected the suggestion that where buildings were being converted to homes, the size of each dwelling should be limited to 150sq m.
“Our experience suggests that 150sq m would generally be acceptable if the development was intended for short-term lets, however, as the intention is to provide permanent homes, 200sq m would be a more comfortable living space, and that is usually the size of a decent cottage,” it said.
SLE also argued against limiting the height of any new agricultural buildings to 12m, suggesting a restriction of 15-18m might be more appropriate if the building was to be 1,000sq m.
However, Gavin Mowat, SLE policy adviser, said overall the proposals were a positive step.
“As rural Scotland continues to look to a future where land-based businesses are focusing on environmental outcomes as much as they are on traditional sectors such as food production and tourism, we need a planning system that can respond appropriately.
“If implemented, these reforms will go some way to helping achieve that.”
The Scottish government will now consider responses to the consultation.
The regulations needed to bring any changes to the General Permitted Development Order into effect are expected to be laid in the Scottish Parliament in December 2020.