Legislative changes offer potential benefits for the agricultural sector, says Arnolds Keys - Irelands Agricultural partner Tom Corfield.

Government consultations on proposed changes to legislation such as the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 can sometimes be so dry that they pass many people by.

However, a consultative process like this took place last year, raising potential opportunities for the agricultural sector. The proposed changes have not yet been confirmed, but it is widely believed that they may come into effect before the general election.

Eastern Daily Press: Arnolds Keys - Irelands Agricultural partner Tom CorfieldArnolds Keys - Irelands Agricultural partner Tom Corfield (Image: Arnolds Keys)

The first opportunity involves converting agricultural buildings to residential dwellings.

Originally introduced in 2014, this was designed to encourage the development of smaller homes for rural workers. The existing order allows for up to five homes to be developed, but rules dictate that in practice four of these must be less than 100 square metres, and there is a limit to the overall development area.

The proposed changes would allow for up to 10 homes of varying sizes up to a maximum of either 100 or 150 square metres to be delivered, increasing the overall limit to 1,000 square metres. The net effect would be to incentivise the delivery of more modest homes and remove the ability to build much bigger than the current limit of 465 square metres.

PDR does not allow for any increase to the external dimensions of the original building when converting from agricultural to residential use.

The new proposals would allow an extension of up to four metres in depth, provided this was on land which had already been developed, such as an area covered by a hard surface.

The proposals also include allowing former agricultural buildings to be included in PDR, provided the building’s last use was agricultural – for example, a barn located outside a village which is no longer part of a working farm, but which has not been used for any other purpose in the meantime.

It is possible that the changes will allow buildings which are not strictly in agricultural use (such as those in forestry or equestrian use) to fall within the PDR rules.

Finally, there is a proposal to allow agricultural buildings in conservation areas, AONBs, National Parks and World Heritage Sites – which are currently excluded – to be included. The final changes will in all likelihood present the agricultural sector with good opportunities to develop underused redundant buildings to deliver much-needed rural homes in the county.

For more information, visit arnoldskeys.com