Redundant farm buildings could become cash cows

Further details of planning regulations have been unveiled which aim to benefit struggling farmers by allowing easier conversion of redundant farm buildings.

The government has announced legislation will come into force on Thursday, May 30 that will allow land owners to change the use of buildings from commercial use to residential use, and from agricultural use to commercial use much more easily.

Agricultural property experts at rural planning specialists Fisher German, which has 14 offices across England, believe the announcement by The Department for Communities and Local Government will provide farmers with an opportunity to make the most of their assets during a difficult period for agriculture.

The new rules will allow farmers to maximise the potential of redundant or under-used agricultural buildings between 150sqm and 500sqm 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 planning permission.

Alan Hardwick, of Fisher German, said: “Government changes coming into force on May 30 will provide significant opportunity for farmers.

“The legislation will extend permitted development rights for redundant agricultural buildings up to 500sqm to be converted to new business uses for a period of up to two years under a prior notification procedure.

“This opportunity will allow farmers and landowners to carry out diversification opportunities on unused buildings on their holdings, boosting income and supporting the rural economy.

“Further changes for business and storage uses are also identified which provide further opportunities for diversification.”

Building conversions over 500sqm 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 two years. This will be reviewed towards the end of that period and they may then be enforced indefinitely.