Gemma FieldStruggling farmers have been handed a boost after new planning regulations were introduced that could see redundant farm buildings converted into cash cows.
The government has announced new legislation due to come into force this spring which will allow land owners to change the use of buildings from commercial to residential use.
The announcement will provide farmers with an opportunity to 'make the most of their assets during a difficult period of agriculture', rural planning specialists Fisher German said.
The new rules will allow farmers to maximise the potential of redundant or under-used agricultural buildings by converting them for use as offices and potentially retail outlets, leisure facilities or even restaurants.
The new regulations will only cover the change in the use of buildings while any external alterations or development such as a new access from the highway will still require the benefit of planning permission.
"The forthcoming changes to development rights for agricultural buildings are really good news for the sector" said Gemma Field of Fisher German.
"A lot of farmers are struggling to make ends meet in the current climate and this will provide them with another valuable opportunity to maximise their assets and increase income."
"Up until now changing the use of buildings has been a lengthy time-consuming, complicated and expensive process."
"The new system will represent a time and cost saving for applicants, with a prior approval application costing £80 with a decision period of 28 days, as opposed to a planning application which would cost £385 and have a decision period of eight weeks."
"The new rules will significantly reduce the number of hoops which farmers need to jump through and I’m sure it’s an avenue many will be exploring."
Building conversions over a certain size, yet to be confirmed, will still need to be accompanied by a stringent prior-approval process. This will cover issues such as transport and highways, development in areas of flood risk, land contamination and safety hazard zones.
While the new proposals do not allow conversion from agricultural use straight to residential use, there could be scope for this by converting a building to office use, and then into residential use at a later date.
The new rights will initially be for a limited period of three years. This will be reviewed towards the end of that period and they may then be enforced indefinitely.
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