Consultation on changes to permitted development rights to allow additional flexibilities
On 24 July 2023 the government published a consultation on proposed changes to extend permitted development rights in respect of agriculture granted under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (“the Order”). The consultation closed on 25 September 2023.
The consultation requested views on changes to the rights that allow for agricultural diversification and development on agricultural units. The aim being to provide further flexibilities to farmers to undertake works on their agricultural units and enable farm diversification without having to submit a planning application. The government wish to make sure that the rights granted are fit for purpose.
The government states its intention to further support the rural economy by providing greater flexibilities around the change of use of existing buildings to commercial uses. At present Class R of Part 3 of the Order allows for the change of use of a building and any land within its curtilage to a flexible use for storage or distribution (Use Class B8), hotels (Use Class C1) and commercial business and service (Use Class E). It is proposed to extend the right further than Use Class E to allow for outdoor sports, recreation or fitness to be undertaken and this would allow for landowners to use buildings and land within its curtilage for activities such as paintballing. In addition, the consultation suggests expanding this right to apply to general industrial use (Use Class B2), though this would be limited to allow the processing of raw goods produced on the site and which are to be sold on the site (excluding livestock). This would for example support farmshops where locally grown produce is then processed for sale.
There are also permitted development rights which enable agricultural development to support farmers carrying out their core business. At Part 6 of the Order two rights enable works to take place which are reasonably necessary for the purposes of agriculture on the unit. Class A allows for the erection and extension of agricultural building and excavation and engineering works on units of 5 hectares or more. Class B applies for units of less than 5 hectares and allows for the extension of existing agricultural buildings, amongst other works, such as the provision of hard surfaces or the installation of additional or replacement plant and machinery.
Under Class A the present right allows up to 1,000 square metres of ground area to be covered by any building or extension. The government is proposing increasing the size limit by 500 square metres to allow for any new building or extension erected under the right to cover up to 1,500 square metres of ground area. This would give farmers greater flexibility to help them respond to challenges facing the agricultural sector and erect buildings that are more in line with modern agricultural practices.
Under Class B the present right provides an area limit of 1,000 square metres for any building extended under the right. The government suggest increasing the ground area limit of any extension erected under the right to 1,250 square metres and the cubic content limit of any extension erected under the right to 25% above its original cubic content. The lower of the two limits would apply, which would vary depending on the specific circumstances of each case.
The proposals set out above would certainly provide greater flexibility for farmers to expand units without incurring the expenses and delay that are often associated in applications to obtain planning permission. Nevertheless, there is the risk is that extensions to the permitted development rights could exacerbate the risk of developments providing adverse visual amenity impacts to the countryside that are not subject to planning control. As agricultural units are ordinarily situated within the open countryside though, it is submitted that in most situations a detrimental impact on local settlements and communities should not be expected.