Changes to permitted development rights – have your say

04 September 2023

An industrial unit on a farm

Proposals to cut red tape in the planning system could mean that farmers and landowners will be able to build, convert and extend more without needing planning permission. 

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has recently launched a consultation on a massive expansion to permitted development rights.

The changes can be seen as the culmination of promises made in the Unleashing Rural Opportunity Paper as well as promises made by the Prime Minister in the Farm to Fork Summit on relaxing planning regulations.

The proposals will allow farmers, landowners, and rural communities to build, convert, and extend more without having to obtain planning permission. The proposals include permitted development right expansions for:

  • barn to housing conversions
  • the extension and erection of warehousing
  • farm diversification
  • farm buildings.

The NFU has collected member views on the proposed changes to permitted development rights to help inform NFU policy and standing to the proposals. Our online form has now closed for submissions

If you want to submit your views direct to the government, you can do so via the government's consultation page up until 25 September 2023.

24 July 2023

Government launches consultation

During the Farm to Fork Summit the government had previously said they would be ‘cutting red tape’ with regards to planning, farming, and rural economies with a focus on reducing barriers as well as increasing certainty and flexibility in the planning system.

The consultation represents the culmination of many of the planning promises, creating new permitted development rights, as well as simplifying and expanding existing rights.

Permitted development rights are contained within the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015, and many changes relate to legislation set within.

The government is seeking to expand the amount of diversification and expansion an applicant may undertake without applying for permission.

Proposals explained

The NFU is looking for feedback on the following areas:

Design codes/guides

A design code is a document that sets out the preferences for the external appearance of a building or structure. In theory, this will allow an applicant to know what the design of their proposal will be assessed against, as well as reducing uncertainty around how their development will be received by the local planning authority.

Design codes were introduced in 2021 and are created by local authorities. Many local authorities do not have design codes in place, however with time more will be adopted. Eventually design codes will become standard local policy documents.

Within some permitted development rights, prior approval on the grounds of external appearance or design is needed. The consultation seeks to replace this prior approval with a consideration of the design code, which would mean that consideration would be given as to whether the external appearance of a building meets the local design code requirements. 

Housing delivery

The permitted development right, Class Q, allows developers to convert an agricultural building to housing without obtaining planning permission. Proposals to expand Class Q would allow an increase of 5 homes to 10, and an increase in maximum potential floor area from 865sqm to 1,000sqm, with proposals to allow extensions under permitted development. 

Agricultural diversification

Currently, the permitted development right, Class R, allows for the change of use of agricultural buildings to a range of other uses such as storage, distribution, hotels and commercial buildings.

The government is proposing to expand the type of buildings (for example buildings in forestry or equestrian use) which can benefit from this right or a similar new right.

Agricultural development 

The government is considerating increasing the size limits of new agricultural buildings and extensions erected under permitted development rights.

The government splits agricultural units into two categories of 5 hectares and above, or 5 hectares and below.

For developments on units of 5 hectares or more, the existing right allows up to 1,000 square metres of ground area to be covered by any building or extension. Under the proposals, this would increase to 1,500 square metres of ground area.

For development on units of of less than 5 hectares, the existing right allows for 1,000 square metres for new agricultural buildings or extensions, as well as 20% cubic content increase (internal volume of the building). Proposals would see this increased to 1,250 square metres and a cubic content increase of 25%.

Industrial and warehousing

Under current permitted development rights, the gross floor space of a new building cannot exceed 200 square metres. The government is proposing to double this limit to 400 square metres. 

Extensions are currently limited to 1,000 square metres of floorspace of 50% increase over the original building (whichever is the lesser). The government proposes to increase this to 1,500 square metres of floorspace or 75% increase over the original building, whichever is the lesser).

NFU position

We have argued for some time that the planning system does not see farming as a unique case in a lot of circumstances. The planning system does not always appreciate, and accommodate the diversity and varying needs a farm may have.

We are supportive of the proposals in principle, as farming in modern times needs to be able to adapt and properly change according to the current climate. The current planning system affords this capability to other sectors but not to farming.

We are, however, cautious of the impacts that an influx of permitted development could have on neighbours adjacent to sites that could make use of the new rights. Permitted development reduces the would be chance for objection or comment from neighbours on planning applications, potentially leading to impacts not being seen or assessed by a local authority.

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  • 24 July: The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has recently launched a consultation on a massive expansion to permitted development rights.
  • 7 August: NFU responds to the call for evidence.