A guide to ‘permitted development rights’ on the farm


Permitted development rights allow you to carry out specific types of work without making a full planning application – but this does not mean you can do whatever you choose. Rural surveyor Julie Liddle discusses the main issues.

Permitted development rights are subject to complicated conditions and you must still submit details of what you are proposing for the local planning authority’s prior approval.

In a nutshell, if your farm is five hectares or more, you can put up a new building and extend or alter an existing building, as well as carrying out excavations and engineering operations for agricultural purposes and under certain restrictions.

What changes of use are allowed?

In April 2015, a number of new and revised General Permitted Development rights came into existence. These allow agricultural land and buildings to be changed into any one of the following uses:

  • A flexible use (Class R): this includes various uses, such as shops, financial and professional services, restaurants and cafes, business, storage and distribution, hotels, and assembly and leisure.
  • An educational use (Class S): This includes state-funded schools or registered nurseries.
  • A residential use (Class Q): The conversion of a maximum floor space of 450 sq metres into three dwellings. This is subject to siting, noise, contamination, flood risk, design or the transport or highways impacts of the proposal being acceptable.

On October 1 2017, a new class of permitted development right (Class PA) also came into force allowing the change of use of a building in light industrial use to a residential use.

Not surprisingly, given the strict controls on creating new dwellings on farmland, some farmers are using permitted development rights to create new accommodation space on the farm, for example by converting existing barns to residential.

However, any planned development must still go through the correct planning procedure, so sound planning advice needs to be taken and a permitted development application needs to be approved before any building work can take place.

What happens when the procedure gets underway

Once the local planning authority has received your permitted development application, it must tell you within 28 days if prior approval is needed. If this is the case, local planners have a further eight weeks to reach a decision.

Questions taken into consideration include the location, design and agricultural requirement for the development. It is also important to keep in mind that extra rules apply to livestock buildings and slurry storage if they are close to protected buildings or residential properties that are not farmhouses.

Key factors and caveats

When planning authorities look at farm buildings, two key factors are siting and choice of materials.

Some authorities produce design guides for agricultural buildings, especially in sensitive locations such as National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and World Heritage Sites.

An important caveat to permitted development rights is that the local planning authority can withdraw them in certain circumstances, typically when the character of an area of accepted significance is under threat. It also means you lose any further general permitted development taking place for the next ten years before the clock resets and this form of development becomes available to you again.

For advice on any rural land and property issues, call Julie on 01768 254 354.