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Easing of legislation for converting unused farm buildings into homes

New regulation changes that are part of the government’s Long-term Plan for Housing, announced in July 2023, come into affect this week. Now permitted development (PD) rights for unused farm buildings allow them to be converted into new homes without the need for a planning application. This new regulation also allows for conversion into shops, cafés and sports facilities and more.

According to government figures, just 5,000 homes have been delivered on farming land since April 2014. The new proposals intend to increase both the number of homes and the number of job opportunities. Farms may now also expand the number and size of buildings on site, without the need for a planning application. 

The size limit for new farm buildings erected under agricultural development PD rights on farms over 5 hectares has increased by 500sqm to 1500sqm, and for farms under 5 hectares by 250sqm to 1250sqm. The volume allowance for extensions can also increase to 25% (from 20%) without the need for prior approval.

Commenting on the new regulations, Aidan Van de Weyer, senior planner at Lanpro, said: “These reforms are very welcome as they bring greater flexibility to the use of rural buildings. 

“By bringing in new residents and supporting local businesses, conversions of rural buildings – those which are currently not suitable for modern farming operations – will support the long-term vitality of countryside communities.”

Rachel Hallos, National Farmers’ Union vice president, said the law change would “greatly support the modernisation, expansion and diversification of farms across the country”. She added: “These changes are essential opportunities for farmers who wish to diversify their business, allowing them alternative streams of income and the ability to further support their local rural economy.”

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