Evolving Permitted Development Rights

Franella Eddell

Since April 2014, Permitted Development rights have allowed agricultural buildings to be converted into homes without having to go through the full planning application process, provided that a number of criteria are satisfied. More details of which can be found here.

Landowners must, however, still seek determination from their local planning authority as to whether prior approval will be required in relation to certain factors, such as transport and location.

Initially, a large number of prior approval applications were refused (although this did vary to a large extent depending on location within the country). In the final quarter of 2014 the refusal rate was 58%. Some of the main reasons for refusal were the visual impact of access tracks, domestic paraphernalia associated with residential development and the unsustainability of the location.

New Planning Practice Guidance issued on 5th March 2015 clarified several aspects of the rules, including the following:

  • Any ‘sustainability test’ assessing access to public transport is not valid;
  • Local authorities should focus on site-specific matters, such as proximity to noisy activities or smells, such as a poultry farm;
  • Approval will not be granted where a building’s location would not be ‘sensible or realistic’ and so would be impractical;
  • Nor will approval be granted where the development would be ‘harmful or objectionable’, making it undesirable;
  • The fact that an agricultural building is in a location where the local authority would not normally grant planning permission is not a sufficient reason for refusing prior approval;
  • Factors such as whether the property is for a rural worker are unlikely to be relevant.

Whether the use of the building on 20th March 2013 (or the most recent previous use if it was unused on that date) was solely for agricultural purposes as part of an established agricultural unit and the essential structural soundness of the building will continue to be key factors going forward.

A further change was introduced in April 2015 that developments must be completed, rather than just started, within three years of approval.

These clarifications and changes appear to have had a significant influence on permitted development policy and it will be interesting to see their continuing impact going forwards.

Fenella Eddell is a property solicitor at Barker Gotelee, solicitors in Suffolk

Property Solicitors – click here for more information on our range of services