New Planning Laws Cut Red Tape for Farmers

On 21 May 2024, the government introduced a number of changes to the Town and Country Planning Act (General Permitted Development Order 2015) aimed at providing farmers greater freedom to diversify and strengthen their businesses.

Thanks to the very public battles between Jeremy Clarkson and the planning authorities in his series Clarkson’s Farm it is fair to say that few planning changes of late have been met with the level of media attention these have attracted, they’ve even been dubbed ‘Clarkson’s Clause’.  

The legislation changes result from a consultation undertaken by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities between July and September last year. 

What’s changed?

The Town and Country Planning Amendment Order (General Permitted Development, etc) 2024, makes changes to four existing permitted development rights that allow for agricultural development and the use change of agricultural buildings.  

1.      Increased floorspace

The amount of floorspace that can change from agricultural use to ‘flexible commercial use’ has increased from 500 square metres to 1,000 square metres. 

The amount of floorspace that can change from a building on an agricultural unit and a former agricultural building to a home has increased from 865 square metres to 1,000 square metres. 

2.      Broader range of commercial building uses 

Under permitted development right Class R of part 3, agricultural buildings may be converted into a variety of ‘flexible commercial uses’ including:

  • The processing of raw goods produced on the site and which are to be sold on the site (excluding livestock). Note: if these goods are transported and sold elsewhere, an application for full planning permission will be required.
  • The provision of agricultural training, outdoor sports, recreation and fitness uses within the curtilage of an agricultural building.  

3.      Changes to agricultural buildings 

Part 6, Class A allows the erection and extension of buildings to support farming operations. The ground area limit of new buildings or extensions erected on farms over 5 hectares in size has increased from 1,000 square metres to 1,500 square metres. For farms under 5 hectares in size the ground area limit for extensions to existing agricultural buildings has increased from 1,000 square metres to 1,250 square metres.

The cubic content limit of an agricultural building has been extended from 20% to 25% above the original building cubic content, essentially this means the size of extensions can be larger compared to the size of the original building. 

4.      Supporting rural housing 

Under Part 3, Class Q of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development etc.) (England) (Amendment) Order 2024 a barn on an agricultural holding can be converted into a single or multiple homes without applying for planning permission.

To encourage conversion of agricultural buildings to more homes suited to rural needs, the changes have introduced a single maximum floorspace per house limit of 150 square metres, roughly equivalent to a decent 3 bedroomed house.

The number of homes allowed has increased from 5 to 10 subject to 1,000 square metres of floorspace.

Whilst individual homes are capped at 150 square metres, they would have to be limited to 100 square metres to achieve a maximum delivery of 10 homes due to the maximum floor limit of 1,000 square metres.

Class Q now also allows new protrusions from the structure of no more than 0.2 metres.

Extensions are permitted to facilitate the provision of homes under Class Q, which must:

  • Not be more than one storey in height.
  • Be situated at the rear of the building.
  • Not be more than 4 metres from the rear building wall.
  • Not extend beyond a wall that forms a side or principal elevation (front/faces a public highway) of the existing building (in other words is not visible from the front of the building, nor extends past the rear building wall).

Housing must meet the national space standard and receive prior approval from the local planning authority that they have adequate natural light. 

How we can help?

If you are a farmer or agricultural landowner and considering development opportunities get in touch.

Permitted development rights allow certain building works and changes of use to be carried out without the need for a full planning application. 

You will still need permission from the local planning authority under the Prior Approval process before you commence development including supplying any supporting surveys and assessments required.

The changes are being bought in under a 12 month transitional period allowing a developer to utilise the previous regime – we can identify which of the regimes is best for you. In particular if you are considering converting a barn or agricultural building into a home larger than 150 square metres you may benefit from these transitional arrangements. 

There remain circumstances where permitted development rights cannot be used and an application for full planning permission will be required. We can identify which application route is appropriate and best for you.

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