Agricultural planning – no quick fix

15th July 2013

30 May 2013 signalled a change in agricultural planning law by removing some of the red tape for farmers. The government hopes that the changes will encourage farmers to bring redundant agricultural buildings back to life without the need to have to apply for planning permission which can often be time-consuming, expensive and cumbersome.

Planning permission will now no longer be needed to convert agricultural buildings of up to 500 square metres to uses including farm shops, restaurants, cafes and/or storage.

To qualify for conversion the buildings must have been in use for agricultural purposes on 3rd July 2012. If not they will only qualify for the new relaxed planning regime after 10 years.

According to commercial property lawyer Neil Faunch of Ansons Solicitors in Staffordshire, the relaxation of the rules, however, is not as simple as it may seem. Although a formal planning application is not required, the Local Planning Authority must still be notified of the intended conversion. Where the agricultural building is no more than 150 square metres, owners will simply need to notify the planning authority of the plans. For buildings from 150 square metres to 500 square metres, a ‘prior approval’ procedure must be followed. The prior approval procedure allows the planning authority to assess the potential impact of the proposed development (e.g effect on highways etc), vet the proposals and ultimately determine whether a full application is needed. The LPA will have 56 days to make a decision on the change of use of the building from the date on which relevant forms and information have been submitted.

Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has stated that there will be a further consultation this summer to assess whether there should be further relaxations to enable empty shops and agricultural buildings to convert to housing.

Whilst this change in legislation signifies a positive step, it is important to note that the prior approval procedure still provides the planning authority with a two-month window to consider matters. Therefore, whilst greater flexibility is seemingly being offered, the sought-after ‘quick’ planning system seems to be some way away.

Neil is a member of the Ansons commercial property team and advises clients on a wide range of commercial and agricultural property matters as well as and town and country planning

For more information on agricultural law and planning matters contact the Ansons LLP agricultural law team on 01543 466660 (Cannock) / 01543 263456 (Lichfield) or by email at (Lichfield) .