New rural planning rules welcomed, but caution required

    Farm buildings can now be used for other uses without planning consent, but it's worth checking the details first.

    Rules that will allow agricultural buildings to be used for non-farming business ventures without the need for change-of-use planning consent are good news for the rural economy, but should not be seen as offering a carte blanche for development. The new Permitted Development Rights (PDRs) announced by the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, on 9 May apply to buildings of under 500 square metres and are part of a range of measures designed to make the most of redundant or under-utilised property.

    The new regulations will allow agricultural buildings to be used for other business activities, such as shops, offices and workshops. The Government will be looking into the issue of residential conversion in more detail over the summer; meanwhile, the new PDRs could benefit agricultural landowners who want to move swiftly to capitalise on a new business opportunity.

    ‘While these PDRs are undoubtedly a good thing, as ever, the devil is in the detail,’ says Savills planning director David Henry. ‘They cut through some of the red tape for farmers and landowners who want to diversify and create new income streams.

    ‘But it’s important to remember that they apply only to change of use; if you need to make significant physical alterations to the building or its surroundings, you may still need planning consent. And to change the use of buildings of between 150 and 500 square metres it will still be necessary to have the prior approval of the local authority, to ensure the change does not have adverse impacts on the neighbourhood. Controls on listed buildings and the like will also continue as before.

    ‘These measures simplify matters, but it’s crucial to be clear exactly what can and can’t be done under the new regulations before making any plans.’



    Key contacts

    David Henry

    David Henry


    Savills Cambridge

    +44 (0) 1223 347 253

    +44 (0) 1223 347 253