New legislation means farmers can turn empty buildings into shops and offices without planning permission

Permitted Development Rights will bring a Boost for Rural Economy. Tom Parish.

Permitted Development Rights will bring a Boost for Rural Economy. Tom Parish. - Credit: Archant

FARMERS and landowners can now turn empty agricultural buildings into shops and offices without planning permission.

Under new government legislation agricultural buildings which are no longer suitable or needed for agricultural use can be transformed into shops, restaurants, small hotels, leisure facilities and offices without the need for planning permission.

Those eligible need simply apply for prior approval, which costs £80, and a decision will be made within 28 days.

Agricultural buildings can be changed in purpose more than once, provided any new use falls within the commercial categories set out.

Tom Parish, a partner in property consultancy Strutt & Parker’s Cambridge office, said: “The new policy opens up significant opportunities for farmers with redundant building stock and the process saves both time and money as opposed to lengthy planning applications.”

The buildings must have been in agricultural use before July 3 2012 and a maximum area of 500sqm can be changed per agricultural unit.

For areas under 150sqm, the local planning authority simply needs to know the new purpose of the building and when it will change, as well as a floor plan.

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If the size affected is between 150sqm and 500sqm, an application for prior approval needs to be made to the planners which will determine whether further details are needed for transport and highway impacts, contamination and flooding.

Mr Parish added: “It is important to note that the new policy relates only to change of use. External alterations or developments still require planning permission.

“Additionally, the question of whether it allows agricultural buildings to be converted into holiday lets is a grey area. I would advise all landowners to ensure change of use applications are underpinned by a sound business plan.”

For more information or advice, please contact Tom Parish in Strutt & Parker’s Cambridge Office on 01223 4599491.