It’s an interesting time in the world of planning policy for our farming and rural property-owning clients, as we’re eagerly awaiting the outcome of the government’s most recent public consultation on the proposed relaxation of planning policy governing the re-use of rural buildings.
Currently, under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, development control extends beyond new building work to changes in the use of buildings or land. Planning permission is usually required for the changes of use of buildings.
However the Use Classes Order is a deregulatory device which allows change of use between land uses that have similar impacts, without the need for planning permission. It is this order which is now under review with proposals to allow the re-use of agricultural buildings without the requirement for planning permission.
Redundant agricultural buildings could be converted to relatively low-impact business uses supporting rural growth, which might include workshops, offices, storage, food processing, cafes or leisure facilities, which could be great news for Shropshire, encouraging rural new business and making diversification projects more viable and quicker to get online.
An independent review into the future of our high streets was carried out by Mary Portas and the re-use of rural buildings is just one of five areas explored within the proposals which also include the temporary or ‘meanwhile’ use of empty commercial premises for low-impact business use, which would be permissible without planning consent for a period of two years, after which an application would be required to continue the new use otherwise reverting to its previous use.
In addition, the proposals would provide hotels, boarding and guest houses permitted development rights to convert to residential use without the need for planning permission.
The move, should it gain approval, would surely be welcomed with open arms, not least by those who have recent experience of the seemingly ever-increasing list of requirements for additional structural, noise, protected species, landscape and visual impact assessment and drainage reports, with the associated cost implications and time delays.
The proposals would be a positive move to support and lessen the burden on our rural businesses and those communities where there is a need and desire for development to support a sustainable rural economy.
Listed buildings and scheduled monuments would be excluded and where the risk of impact is likely to be greater a ‘prior approval’ may be necessary, similar to that currently required for permitted development of agricultural buildings.
It remains to be seen how the bats and great crested newts will fare out of all of this.
Melanie Holt, Nock Deighton Agricultural LLP