Permitted development – a new house in the country?
Fenn Wright Partner and specialist in rural affairs, David Ward, outlines the new permitted development rights introduced earlier this month.
The Planning Minister, Nick Bowles, has made it easier to convert redundant agricultural buildings into residential dwellings, however, at present there is only a three year window of opportunity and we are yet to see how the legislation will be interpreted by local planning authorities.
So, will the agricultural estate become a housing estate? The simple answer is, no.
The new rights allow for the conversion of agricultural buildings to provide up to three dwellings, with a combined maximum floor area of up to 450m².
The changes apply to existing agricultural buildings, in sole agricultural use as at 20 March 2013, or if not in use on that date, then the last use was solely agricultural. This will not apply to any new agricultural buildings and the building must have been in agricultural use for at least 10 years before development rights can be applied.
These rights are only available in England and are expressly excluded from areas which are National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, conservation areas of Sites of Special Scientific Interest. In addition, they will not apply to any Listed Building or a site containing a scheduled monument.
The new permitted development rights will allow physical changes, necessary to convert the buildings to a dwelling. Specifically, these will include the installation or replacement of windows, doors, roofs, external walls and the provision of water, drainage, electricity, gas and other services. In certain cases, partial demolition of the existing building may be allowed in order to facilitate the conversion. In addition, rights will allow the “domestication” of the curtilage of a building in order to provide gardens however, the new dwelling will not benefit from residential permitted development rights, and the erection of a garage, shed or any permitted extension will not apply to the new dwelling.
Like with many things in life, one hand giveth and the other one taketh away. In this case, anyone successfully activating these rights will then lose their rights under agricultural permitted development (erection of a new agricultural building) for 10 years.
There are certainly opportunities however. Anyone contemplating a development should think carefully about the implications. What is the cost of conversion and the return on that investment? If looking to sell the resultant development, is this practical or sensible where the development may be positioned strategically within a holding? A “developer” must also consider the potential conflict between a residential occupier and the ongoing use of the core farming business – the peace and tranquility of living in the middle of a working farm yard!
And what of the local planning authorities? Whilst the new rights are yet to be tested, it is possible that some local authorities will resist this type of development. The prior notification procedure allows councils an opportunity to refuse on transport and highway grounds, noise impacts, flood risks and other specific reasons. LPAs may have found another “loophole” where “development is permitted subject to ….. whether the location or siting of a building makes it impractical or undesirable for use as a dwelling house”. This is rather open to interpretation and may provide the angle needed to refuse an application.
In summary, there are definitely opportunities for farmers and rural property owners. The success of any development will depend on whether it is practical, sensible and equitable to carry out a development and the quality of a well considered and comprehensive pre-notification application. The correct advice will be essential!
Fenn Wright’s rural department would be pleased to provide advice around this specific policy development. Please get in touch for more information.