Do you need planning permission for farm buildings?

Planning Permission on Farmland

Farms may have acres of land to play with, but they are still subject to planning regulations…

Continuing our easy-guides to planning permission, this month we take a look at farm buildings.

Some people may look at the vast expanse of fields on a farm and assume that the owners have free rein to do as they like with the land, but farms are subject to the planning regulations the same as other kinds of property, albeit slightly different.

And there are some particular conditions that apply to agricultural land and farm buildings:

There are three general circumstances where planning permission might be required on agricultural land:

  1. Changing the use of the land
  2. Changing the use of a building
  3. Building a house on agricultural land.

In most other circumstances, permitted development applies to agricultural land, and confusingly this can also include projects involving the change of use of a building and other development related to agricultural activities (eg farm access road, a barn building). 

The change of use of agricultural buildings to some uses is allowed under permitted development rights, subject to a ‘light-touch’ application process called Prior Approval. Such proposals are less dependent on subjective opinion and determined on the basis of specific criteria. This can see agricultural buildings being allowed to convert to dwellings, shop, restaurant/café, hotel, leisure, office, light industry, storage and distribution or state funded school/nursery use.

Where the development relates to agricultural activity, permitted development means that, if you have a farm measuring 5 hectares or more, you are allowed to erect, extend or alter a building, or conduct any excavations or engineering operations, again subject to specific criteria being satisfied, rather than Council planning policy.

Projects also coming under permitted development rights are:

  1. Temporary uses of land
  2. Forestry buildings
  3. Caravan sites and buildings relating to them (in some circumstances).

Landowners are advised to always check whether or not a proposal is permitted development before going ahead, to ensure that they are not subject to any exceptions, and such advice can be provided by planning consultants or by paying for Council pre-application advice.

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