Farming talk: Warning over Welsh planning rules

Converting redundant farm buildings into homes is a popular way for farmers to generate extra income – but if you’re in Wales, it might soon be more difficult for you than for your counterparts in Shropshire.

Suzanne Tucker, associate at FBC Manby Bowdler
Suzanne Tucker, associate at FBC Manby Bowdler

The UK Government pledged earlier this year to ease planning restrictions for converting some disused farm buildings into homes for local first-time buyers as part of its levelling up agenda, but it is likely that the changes will only apply in England, not Wales.

It is anticipated that the plan may also apply to disused buildings in national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs) and is partly intended to help ease the shortage of affordable homes in rural communities.

While the finer details have not yet been released, it appears to be good news for Shropshire farmers and landowners, who might now be able to create an asset out of a liability. And although the move was planned under a Boris Johnson-led government, there’s no sign to date that the new leadership under Prime Minister Liz Truss is looking to change the plans. The Government is expected to set out ‘its vision to unlock homeownership for a new generation by building more homes in the places people want to live and work’ later this autumn.

Creating new homes can also contribute to the vitality and sustainability of the local economy by helping people to stay in rural areas.

The shortage of affordable homes in rural areas has contributed to a “brain drain” of talent as younger people are forced to move to towns and cities in search of cheaper property.

The changes follow intense lobbying of the Government by farming and rural interest groups, and CLA Cymru are continuing the campaign in Wales. They fear that potential investment could leak across the border if the changes were to apply only in England.

Whichever side of Offa’s Dyke you farm though, the key is to get good legal advice about your options before you start to convert a building. Planning rules can be complex – and expensive, if you get it wrong.

Suzanne Tucker is associate at FBC Manby Bowdler

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