Rule change is designed to give farmers more flexibility in converting unused buildings

Farmers will be able to convert their unused buildings into new homes and shops after the government introduced new planning laws this week.

Farmers can now develop unused buildings

Farmers can now develop unused buildings

The changes to permitted development rights have been designed to give farmers in England greater freedom to diversify and grow their business, without having to spend time and money submitting a planning application.

They will now be able to convert agricultural buildings and land into new business opportunities, such as outdoor sports facilities, larger farm shops and farm training centres, as well as housing.

The new rules will give farmers greater freedom to diversify and convert agricultural buildings to commercial uses – as well as up to 10 homes – without needing to submit a planning application, subject to space and natural light conditions. 

Specifically, the changes will: 

  • Double the amount of floor space that can change from agricultural to ‘flexible commercial use’, from 500 square metres to 1,000 square metres;
  • Increase the size of new buildings or extensions that can be built on farms over 5 hectares from 1,000 square metres to 1,500 square metres;
  • For smaller farms, increase the size of such development from 1,000 square metres to 1,250 square metres;
  • Double the number of homes that can be delivered through the conversion of agricultural buildings from five to 10;
  • Protect nationally important archaeological sites (scheduled monuments) by removing the ability for extensions to be built and new buildings erected in the vicinity.

Minister for housing, planning and building safety Lee Rowley said: “Farmers are the lifeblood of communities, and these changes give them the freedom to grow their businesses, and plan for their futures. This is all part of our Long-term Plan for Housing to deliver more homes for rural communities and reform the planning system, removing unnecessary barriers to development.”

Farming minister Mark Spencer added: “I am extremely pleased to support our farmers and provide them the freedom to decide the best uses for buildings on their land, without needless bureaucracy holding them back.

“We are listening to farmers and putting them at the heart of future development of our rural areas. Helping farmers secure their businesses and get on with the important job of producing food is our top priority.

“Permitted development rights provide more freedoms to develop without applying for planning permission.”