Government sows the seed for rural housing

20 March 2018

Make hay while the sun shines goes the old saying, but recent amends to permitted development rights could see this well-used idiomatic proverb take a back seat.

Instead, we may be about to witness a spring harvest for developers. Last week the Government announced an extension to permitted development rights that will allow farmers to increase the size of their farm buildings and/or convert them into homes without the need for full planning permission.  

Currently, articles 9 and 10 of General Permitted Development (England) Order 2015, Class Q of Part 3 of Schedule 2 allows certain building works and changes to be completed without making a full planning application.

The key changes announced include:

  • The size limit of new agricultural buildings under permitted development rights will increase from 465sqm to 1,000sqm
  • Allowance for up to three larger homes within a maximum of 465sqm; or up to five smaller homes each no larger than 100sq m; or a mix of both, within a total of no more than five homes, of which no more than three may be larger homes
  • Giving applicants an extra year to benefit from the temporary permitted development right for the change of use of buildings used for storage and distribution (Use Class B8) into dwellings

The news has been met with encouragement by the farming media and rural community who see these changes as a tangible attempt to cultivate housing growth in the rural community. President of the CLA, which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses, commented that they were “pleased the Government has listened to us and extended this successful policy further but we now need to see it used more widely with local authorities following the right granted.”

Many new homes are created each year through conversions of agricultural buildings and these amendments certainly now provide food for thought for Local Planning Authorities, who may anticipate a herd of planning applications.

However, we mustn’t count our chickens before they hatch. The President of the CLA’s quote, whilst welcoming the amendments, expresses concerns about local authority resistance. After all, after permitted development rights were extended in 2014 to cover the conversion of farm buildings, more than 50% of applications were refused prior approval because most failed the location sustainability test.

The well-documented housing shortage and Government’s desire to increase rural housing stock are key drivers behind the changes. Not only could these amendments result in dilapidated farm buildings being given a new lease of life and returned to productive use, but, by increasing the allowance to up to five smaller homes, also help beleaguered first-time buyers get on to the property ladder, as these homes will undoubtedly be more affordable.

These changes, which come into effect on 6 April 2018, could trigger a new crop of housing opportunities and support the Government’s focus on making the most effective use of land or buildings in the draft revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework.

There are plenty of examples across the country of successful schemes that have resulted in attractive housing originating from old agricultural buildings and at Planning Potential we have a strong track record of supporting planning applications concerning agricultural buildings. If you would like to know more, please contact

To read about the changes in full: