The administrative burden for farmers is reduced

Farmers will be able to convert their unused buildings into new homes and shops thanks to new planning laws that come into force today.

The big changes will give farmers across England more freedom to diversify and grow their businesses, without having to spend time and money submitting a planning application.

They will be able to convert agricultural buildings and land into new lucrative business opportunities, such as outdoor sports facilities, larger farm shops and agricultural training centres, as well as housing, thanks to changes to permitted development rights coming in today.

These new powers come a week after the Farm to Fork Summit, where the Prime Minister reiterated the Government’s commitment to supporting farmers who feed this country. The changes coming into effect will give them new freedoms to diversify if they wish.

Minister for Housing, Planning and Construction 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 future.

This is all part of our long-term housing plan to create more homes for rural communities and to reform the planning system, removing unnecessary barriers to development.

Agriculture Secretary Mark Spencer said:

I am particularly pleased to be able to support our farmers and give them the freedom to decide the best use of buildings on their land, without unnecessary bureaucracy holding them back.

We listen to farmers and put them at the heart of the future development of our rural areas. Our top priority is to help farmers secure their businesses and continue the important task of producing food.

Permitted development rights offer more freedom to develop without applying for planning permission.

From today, the government is expanding these rights to give farmers more freedom to diversify and convert agricultural buildings for commercial use, as well as up to ten homes, without having to submit a planning application. These rules depend on the space and natural light to ensure homes are suitable. This will boost housing development in rural areas, with only 5,000 homes completed on agricultural land since April 2014*.

The changes will:

  • Double the amount of floor space that can change from agricultural to ‘flexible commercial use’, from 500 square meters to 1,000 square meters.
  • Increase the size of new buildings or extensions that can be built on farms over 5 hectares from 1,000 square meters to 1,500 square meters.
  • For smaller farms, the size of such development should be increased from 1,000 square meters to 1,250 square meters.
  • Double the number of homes that can be delivered by converting agricultural buildings from five to ten.
  • Protect nationally important archaeological sites (scheduled monuments) by eliminating the possibility of expanding and erecting new buildings in the area.

The changes meet one of the Prime Minister’s promises at the Farm to Fork Summit last May, to cut red tape, streamline the planning system for farmers and support the wider rural economy.