Articles | All change for agricultural buildings?

James Burgess considers the impact of the recent amendment to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 for rural communities. 

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James Burgess

James Burgess

Landowners and farmers should find it easier to diversify from 6 April 2014.  A change in legislation designed to improve and support rural communities means that redundant agricultural buildings will be convertible to other uses.

The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment and Consequential Provisions) (England) Order 2014 (SI 2014/564) (the Order) comes into force on the 6 April 2014 and amends the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995.

The Order introduces a number of new “permitted development” rights for changes of use.  Most notably for rural landowners these include a new “Class MA”, allowing agricultural buildings to become schools or nurseries, and “Class MB”, allowing agricultural buildings to change to residential use.


Conversion to Schools or Nurseries - Class MA

Agricultural buildings can now be changed into a registered nursery providing childcare or a state-funded school without the need for planning permission for change of use.

The Government’s aim in this change is to increase the number of rural schools and childcare places, thereby supporting rural communities.

Prior approval (covering issues such as flooding risk, highways and transport impacts, and noise) from the Local Authority will still be required to ensure that the change of use and associated works do not create unacceptable impacts on the surrounding area.

Under Class MA you will also be permitted to carry out minor works to enable hard surface playgrounds to be developed so long as the building and its ancillary features do not exceed 500 sq m in area.

This Class will not apply to sites of special scientific interest, safety hazard zones or military explosive storage areas, along with some other areas.  The right will also not apply to listed buildings.

Conversion into dwellinghouses -  Class MB

Probably of more interest to many farmers and landowners, the new Class MB means that agricultural buildings will now be able to change to a maximum of three dwellinghouses, assuming the cumulative floor space of the building does not exceed 450 sq m.  You will also be able to carry out associated building works.  The Government’s aim is of course to allow rural businesses to diversify whilst increasing housing stock.

The rights will not apply to properties within National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or conservation areas, listed buildings and other such similar areas.

The rights will also not apply to a building that was not used solely for an agricultural use.

Much the same as for Class MA, prior approval (covering flooding risks, highways and transport impacts, and noise) from the Local Authority will be required to ensure that the change of use and associated works do not create unacceptable impacts on the surrounding area.

You should contact your local planning authority and discuss your proposal before any work begins.  They will be able to inform you of any reason why the development may not be permitted and if you need to apply for planning permission for all or part of the work.

The Government’s change should make it considerably easier for landowners and farmers to extract value from the redundant buildings around the farm and in turn help support and sustain rural communities.