To many people’s thinking, one of the most successful rural planning policies has been allowing the conversion of farm buildings to residential use under Permitted Development Rights (PDR). After all, why not utilise redundant traditional farm buildings in order to provide additional rural housing?

Up until 2014, full planning consent was required to convert any farm building to residential use. As these buildings invariably are located outside existing settlements, planning applications were often refused and the buildings continued to decay. In April 2014, the conversion of agricultural buildings was included under Class Q of Permitted Development Rights, but only for three units with a maximum combined floor area of 450m2.

Following a consultation, the PDRs were extended in April 2018 and there is now the opportunity to develop a larger area. It is now possible to create up to three large homes, with a combined floor area of not more than 465m sq, or five smaller homes with none being bigger than 100m sq, or a combination of both.

However, the Local Government Association is now lobbying to have this PDR removed and farm building conversion brought back under full planning control. It argues that this uncontrolled rural development is putting undue strain on infrastructure and service provision.

What this does suggest is that the opportunity to develop old farm buildings without the need to seek full planning permission will not last forever, so make the most of it while you can.

Should you do so, you should also consider how to make the most of the opportunity. The current ownership structure may not be the most tax efficient.

If the buildings are owned by the business, should they be moved out prior to the PDR being exercised? Does it provide the opportunity for the next generation to have a home on the holding?

By Tom Wills, partner and head of agriculture and estates at Sintons Law.