Changes to permitted development rights positive for some, but 'bitterly disappointing' for Protected Landscapes

Following lobbying from the CLA, we analyse the latest government changes to PDRs for agricultural development and diversification
Rural housing development, Wales
The changes will come into force later this month.

The UK Government has announced amendments to permitted development rights (PDRs) for the change of use of agricultural buildings to residential and commercial uses. Amendments have also been announced to the permitted development rights for agriculture.

Between July and September 2023, as part of its long-term plan for housing, the government launched a consultation on potential changes to various permitted development rights. This included alterations to the rights for the change of use of dwellings, agricultural diversification and development. The CLA replied to this consultation and our response was informed by discussions with our members on our Business and Rural Economy Committee. We expect a response to this consultation in due course.

It has now been confirmed that the changes outlined below will come into force on 21 May 2024.

Change of Use of Agricultural Buildings

The Class Q permitted development right allows for the change of use of agricultural buildings to dwellings. This has been amended to allow the change of use of not only buildings on agricultural units but also former agricultural buildings.

Previously, the right has been limited to the provision of five dwellings with a maximum floorspace of 865sqm. But from 21 May, this will increase to allow the change of use to up to 10 dwellings with a new maximum floor space limit of 1000sqm, whilst each dwelling will be limited to 150sqm each. In addition, restrictions on development will be eased as rear single-storey extensions will also be allowed for Class Q proposals. However, any building proposed for change of use, must now be able to demonstrate an existing highways access.

Planning in Protected Landscapes

As part of last year’s consultation, the government proposed the introduction of Class Q into Protected Landscapes. The CLA supported this proposal as we recognise that these communities are in need of new homes to ensure they continue to grow. Enabling the conversion of existing buildings that are underused and/or redundant is a vital step forward for local communities in these areas and the wider rural economy. However, ministers have baulked at this proposal, citing concerns over the potential impacts of extending the right into protected landscapes, and are not going to extend the right at this time.

This is very disappointing when we consider that, according to the CLA’s 2023 planning survey, 58.4% of members living in Protected Landscapes have buildings that they wish to convert but are unable to do so under current planning rules and restrictions.

Class R permitted development rights

The Class R permitted development rights have also been amended and allow for further flexibility when changing agricultural buildings to commercial use. From 21 May, it will be possible for these buildings to be changed to sport and recreational use as well as general industrial use for the purpose of processing raw goods produced on the agricultural site. The previous floor space limit of 500sqm has also been doubled to 1000sqm.

Whilst the CLA supported these changes, we also promoted plans for the use of Class R permitted development rights on other rural buildings and to allow the combination of uses. Although the further proposals have not been taken forward, we are pleased to see the UK Government acknowledge the increasingly important role that diversification plays.

Agricultural development

PDRs for agricultural development have also been amended and show that the government recognises the need to provide farmers with more flexibility to erect and develop buildings suited to modern agricultural practices.

For farms over 5ha, the permitted development right currently allows the erection of agricultural buildings up to 1000sqm. This is to be increased to 1500sqm from 21 May. For farms of less than 5ha, the ability to extend existing agricultural buildings will be increased from 20% to 25%.

All in all, this is a positive outcome from the consultation for CLA members and these amendments come at a crucial time for the rural economy, providing welcome opportunities for many rural businesses. Nevertheless, the opportunities to further extend these rights, enabling greater farm diversification and investment for the rural economy have been missed. The CLA will therefore continue to fight and champion for further PDR reform, particularly when it comes to the introduction of permitted development rights in Protected Landscapes.

'Chronic lack of housing'

By and large, these changes to permitted development rights have been welcomed by the CLA, but do not go far enough to stimulate growth in the rural economy.

Country Land and Business Association (CLA) Deputy President Gavin Lane says:

“The CLA has long argued for permitted development rights to be extended, to grow the rural economy. We welcome the news that farmers and landowners will now be able to convert agricultural buildings into a higher number of dwellings, and of a greater size, and that buildings can be more flexibly re-used for other commercial uses, boosting diversification.

There is a chronic lack of rural housing and without it, the sustainability and vibrancy of communities up and down the country is under threat

CLA Deputy President Gavin Lane

“But it is bitterly disappointing to see Class Q permitted development rights won’t be expanded to National Parks and Landscapes. A recent CLA survey found that more than half of our members living in Protected Landscapes wish to convert existing and redundant agricultural buildings that no longer serve their intended purpose, but under current planning rules and restrictions they cannot.

“Allowing the use of Class Q within these areas would enable much needed development and help stimulate growth in the rural economy. So many enterprises in rural areas could grow, could create jobs, could expand into new markets, but are being stifled by an archaic planning regime that seems almost designed to restrict our ambition. The rural economy is 19% less productive than the national average – closing that gap could add £43bn to UK GVA.”

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