Update to Planning Laws for Agriculture: Farmers Gain Flexibility to Repurpose Buildings

Farmers may benefit from extended planning regulations which came into effect in May 2024. The UK government’s recent consultation updating Class Q and Class R Permitted Development Rights, has paved the way for agricultural diversification, allowing farmers flexibility to repurpose agricultural buildings.

The updated rules permit farmers to convert existing agricultural structures into residential properties, general industrial, storage, distribution, farm shops, recreational and other commercial uses without the need for a lengthy and often complex planning application process.  This move has been met with enthusiasm by the National Farmers’ Union, who recognise the benefits it will bring to rural communities and the Agricultural sector.

Key Changes: Advantages

  • Increased Overall Size and Units
    • Residential – Up to 10 residential dwellings (previously only 5) can be created from existing structures, each with a maximum size of 150 square metres and up to an overall cap of 1,000 square metres.
    • Commercial – The cap for commercial has also increased to 1,000 square metres, doubling the previous 500 square metre cap.
    • Agricultural – New agricultural buildings allowed without full planning permission has increased to 1,500 metres squared from 1,000 on farms over 5 hectares and for farms of less than 5 acres, permitted new agricultural buildings has also increased from 20% to 25% above the original building cubic size.
  • Resetting the Clock – Agricultural buildings are now eligible for conversion provided the building was part of an agricultural unit on or before 24th July 2023 (previously the required date was March 2013).
  • Extensions – Provided there was existing hardstanding in situ on 24 July 2023 (or if laid after this date, it must be in place for 10 years), a new single storey rear extension (up to 4 metres) can be added.

Key Changes: Limitations

  • Reduced Residential Unit Size – Larger residential dwellings are no longer permitted with the permitted maximum size for any individual dwelling/unit reduced from 465 to 150 metres squared.
  • Access – Any building proposed for conversion must already have suitable access to the public highway.

Whilst there is potential for disagreement over the precise interpretation of some of the legislation, it is intended to simplify the process and stimulate development of redundant and underused buildings.  Transitional arrangements exist so that any development that was permitted immediately prior to the amendments coming into effect but is no longer permitted due to the changes, will continue to be permitted for a further 12 months.

How Thursfields Can Help

As a landowner, you may be looking to take advantage of the new opportunities presented by the revised planning laws. At Thursfields, our experienced agricultural team is here to guide you through the process and help you maximise the benefits available.

Our full-service agricultural team understands the rural landscape and can provide expert advice on how to navigate the new regulations. Whether you’re looking to diversify your income streams, repurpose old agricultural buildings, or expand your farming operations, we’re here to help.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can assist you, please don’t hesitate to contact Emma Hughes, Commercial and Agricultural Real Estate Director, on 07719 517345; email ehughes@thursfields.co.uk or Tony Gibb, Head of Real Estate on 07712 675120; email tgibb@thursfields.co.uk.

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