Proposed changes to development rules would allow farmers to turn old barns into houses without planning permission.
From April, if proposed changes to permitted development rights go ahead, farmers could convert disused farm buildings to up to three dwellings of no more than 150sq metres each.
The proposals were good news for farmers, said the CLA’s head of planning, Fenella Collins, who lobbied the government to broaden the reach of permitted development rights to include residential use.
“This consultation is a welcome step forward,” she said, speaking at the BIAC rural planning conference.
“These changes would incentivise hill farmers to invest in their business and aid succession by offering the opportunity to deliver [housing for] new entrants.”
An NFU survey found one in four farmers would be interested in converting a farm building to a dwelling and had at least one suitable building, said chief rural affairs adviser David Collier.
“It is clear from the responses to our survey that farmers will be keen to make use of the concession, in the main they will be using it to provide family accommodation and they can be trusted to approach all this very responsibly,” he said.
The CLA was pleased that farmers in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty were also included, said Ms Collins.
The changes would apply strictly to redundant farm buildings. To ensure this is adhered to, a 10-year period in which no new farm buildings can be built on the holding is proposed, deterring farmers from converting an in-use farm building to housing and then simply building another farm building.
“10 years is a long time and that element is very unfair, as farmers don’t know what will happen with changes to the CAP,” said Ms Collins.
The proposals were too limited and restrictive in their current form to speed up the planning process, she said.
The proposals do not allow changes to the exterior of the building – making it unclear whether farmers could put in additional windows or doors – and also exclude the estimated 100,000 listed buildings, which was a key problem, according to both the CLA and NFU.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England branded the proposals a “disaster” and said they would lead to suburbanised farmsteads and housing “popping up in unsuitable locations”.