The CLA is celebrating two major lobbying successes resulting in reduced planning regulations which will make it easier to bring both agricultural and office buildings back into productive use at a time when the rural economy needs it most. It says that new measure will reduce bureaucracy, time and cost for economic development in the countryside.
The Association has lobbied successive governments for nearly a decade to allow the use of agricultural outbuildings to be converted to new uses that will benefit rural areas, such as shops, restaurants, small hotels and leisure facilities and offices without the need for planning permission for change of use.
It has also argued that rural offices that are commercially unviable should be allowed to be converted to much-needed rural housing under permitted development rights.
Ministers from the Department for Communities and Local Government have now announced that both these proposals will come into force on 30 May.
CLA South East regional director Robin Edwards said: "This announcement means that farms and rural businesses will be able to convert existing buildings which are presently empty or unfit for purpose, to suit modern purposes and benefit the rural economy.
"Allowing agricultural buildings of 500m2 or less the flexibility to change into a range of new business uses will help to stimulate rural economic growth. It will help underpin farming businesses currently under extreme pressure by creating new jobs and businesses at a time when they are greatly needed in the countryside."
"In respect of rural offices, many CLA members are currently paying empty property rates because of a lack of business tenants, so allowing a change of use from office to residential will reduce costs and provide much-needed homes in rural areas. The Government has recognised the common sense in this argument, and while over 1,000 authorities applied for exemptions to the proposals, only 17 were successful, making it possible to ensure many of our buildings can now be used to their best advantage.
"Both measures are extremely welcome and the news could not come too soon. Our quarterly CLA/Smiths Gore Rural economy index is about to be published, and we expect to see a drop in optimism among rural businesses. Anything that can help the rural economy to grow is to be welcomed."