The Government claims its proposed introduction of new permitted developments rights will promote rural prosperity. The changes include relaxations on the current development control for agricultural buildings, but does this mean jobs for all via the unfettered creation of rural mixed use developments, or will its effect be far more limited?
In January, the CLG announced details of its new well trailed key permitted development rights, which it is anticipated will be introduced this Spring. The most prominent of these allows for change of use from Offices (B1 (a)) to Residential (C3), which it is hoped will make it easier for developers to convert redundant offices in urban areas to provide new homes.
The announcement also covered changes in development control for agricultural buildings, which the CGL feels will boost the rural economy by allowing farmers and landowners/land managers to generate alternative sources of income by making use of previously redundant agricultural buildings to create new business ventures.
Under the current planning control legislation, planning permission is required for such changes, however under the proposed new Permitted Development Rights, which will initially apply for a three year period (after which they will be reviewed) planning permission will not be required to convert buildings which are no longer suitable, or needed for agricultural use to other business uses, such as shops, restaurants, small hotels and leisure facilities and offices. By making it easier for agricultural landowners to diversify, it is hoped that new jobs will be created in the rural economy.
This is however not a green light to the creation of large scale rurally based mixed use developments and while we are yet to see the detail of precisely what is proposed, CLG has said that the relaxation on the restrictions relating to change of use to residential will not apply to agricultural buildings and as with most Permitted Development Rights, conditions and limitations are likely to be imposed. Indeed reports to date suggest that in order to prevent unacceptable impacts on transport and noise, size restrictions will also apply, with conversions over a set size requiring prior approval.
It will also not be a “one size fits all” policy and in order to reflect variations in local circumstances, local authorities are likely to be given an opportunity to seek an exemption if they can demonstrate there will be substantial adverse economic consequences in allowing such changes in their area.
Those considering taking advantage of the proposed new rights should also bear in mind that they relate only to the change of use and that planning permission will still be required for most external developments.
While this move is being broadly welcomed (and has in fact largely come about as a result of years of lobbying), there are concerns in some quarters that developments in remote, or inaccessible areas will lead to an increase in traffic on rural roads.
It also remains to be seen as to whether, or not there is much of a market for uses other than residential.