Bruton Knowles planning consultant Paul Barton said more than half the applications to convert surplus farm buildings into homes are being thrown out by planners – despite Government attempts to relax planning regulations.
Paul Barton said: “Permitted Development Rights came into force just over 12 months ago to enable landowners or farmers to convert agricultural buildings to flexible, educational or residential use – but fewer than half of the applicants have been given permission to press ahead with their schemes.
“It would appear the greater proportion of applicants are failing to take into account the small print relating to just what they can and cannot do, and this, combined with a resistance by some local planning authorities, has resulted in many refused applications.”
Paul Barton said the Government had issued fresh clarifications earlier in the year in a bid to resolve some of the major sticking points.
“The new guidance has provided positive clarification of some the issues which have proved difficult. As always, landowners will save themselves a great deal of inconvenience by equipping themselves with the correct information and interpretations before they submit their applications.”
The principal point is that up to 450sqm of floor space within an established agricultural unit can be converted to up to three dwellings - not including existing residential properties on the unit unless they were created via the use of the permitted development rights.
The new guidance also clarifies the work necessary to convert the building and allows for the installation or replacement of windows, doors, roofs, exterior walls, water, drainage, electricity, gas or other services ‘reasonably required’ for the building to function as a house. It also allows partial demolition to the extent reasonably necessary to undertake such work.
Paul Barton said: “Structural changes are not permitted, but the permitted development rights should not restrict the conversions to those buildings ordinarily considered ‘traditional’.”
In addition the permitted development rights cannot be used in a site of special scientific interest; in a safety hazard area; a military explosives storage area; or if the site is a scheduled monument or is a listed building.
The site must have been used solely for an agricultural use, as part of an established agricultural unit, as of 20 March 2013.
If the site was brought into use after 20 March 2013, then it must have been used solely for an agricultural use, as part of an established agricultural unit, for 10 years before the date the development can begin.
The guidance clarified that prior approval should be sought and that issues such as transport, highways and noise should be considered.
The guidance also states that local planning authorities should not be applying tests from the National Planning Policy Framework except where they are relevant to the subject matter of the prior approval process. Significantly the guidance states a sustainable location should not be a test applied to any application. This is practical guidance considering the location of most agricultural buildings will not be within a settlement.
The guidance states the local planning authority can consider whether the location and siting of the building would make it impractical or undesirable to change the use to a house helpfully the guidance provides some clarity regarding impractical or undesirable stating local planning authorities should apply a reasonable ordinary dictionary meaning in making any judgment. Impractical reflects that the location and siting would “not be sensible or realistic”, and undesirable reflects that it would be “harmful or objectionable”
He concluded: “Overall, the guidance should help clarify many of the issues which have arisen from those applications which have already been submitted, over half of which have been refused.”