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Owners of agricultural land may have more than one option when it comes to diversifying or adding new buildings. The options that will be available will depend on a wide range of factors, including the total area of agricultural land owned, and the type of development in question. There are several possible reasons why someone may want to build on agricultural land, and the government understands the importance of letting farmers diversify or make improvements within reason. The following article is general advice and information for agricultural landowners considering building works.

N.B – Approval rates vary across councils and will depend on a number of factors unique to each location. If the land is part of a national park, the following advice may not relate.

birds eye view of green fields farmland

What is Classed as Agricultural Land?

Agricultural land is defined as being almost entirely devoted to agricultural use. This includes, but is not limited to:
· Horticulture
· Crop growing
· Dairy farming
· Breeding and keeping livestock, including animals kept for the production of fur, wool etc.
· Grazing land
· Woodland that supports the farmland

Buying agricultural land with the sole purpose to develop can be risky as there is no guarantee that planning permission will be granted. Some local councils, however, may provide information on areas that are more or less likely to be granted approval.

Permitted Agricultural Development

PAD allows for permitted works without planning permission, as long as the work is to:
· Extend, erect, or alter an agricultural building for agricultural use below a specific size (1000sqm).
· Carry out engineering operations or excavations needed for agricultural purposes.

To be eligible for PAD the total land owned by the farm must be more than five hectares. Works of this type do not need planning permission, but councils will still require notification of proposed development.

brown cow in green grass field

Class Q Development

In some circumstances, farm buildings can be converted for residential purposes under Class Q Development rights. Class Q has been controversial over the years due to interpretation of guidelines, but new rules were set out in March 2018 to help clarify. The idea of Class Q is to allow farmers to covert unused agricultural buildings (a popular example is a barn conversion). As with PAD, prior approval must be attained, and a convertibility test carried out. It is essential to employ a trusted and knowledgeable surveyor for this as in some circumstances, approval can still be tricky. For more details, take a look at our blog, What are Class Q Development Rights?

Planning Permission

If planned works do not fall into the above categories, planning permission must be obtained before starting any works. Planning permission is a notoriously lengthy process with no guarantee at the end. There are, however, ways to improve the chance of approval. Initially, an agricultural prior notice consent form can be presented, which allows for the erection of a temporary building (such as a caravan) on the site for up to five years. This will then provide time to create and submit an application form. If a landowner can prove they need to live on the site permanently, for example, to look after livestock, and can show evidence of this, then planning permission becomes more likely.

inside roof of a barn conversion showing beams

Examples of Agricultural Development

It is no secret that farming is a struggle for many, increased costs, falling prices and subsidy cuts have meant that many farms have had to diversify in order to keep themselves afloat. Popular examples of development to agricultural land to earn additional income include:
· Holiday lets – this is where Class Q Development can become particularly useful. Landowners can rent out converted agricultural buildings to holidaymakers.
· Manufacturing – some farmers are choosing to produce a product in house, rather than simply selling the raw material on. Making cheese, wool rugs and wine are all examples of in-house manufacturing opportunities.
· Camping – while no permanent structures are necessarily required for the actual camping, landowners may need permission or approval from the local authority to build shower blocks and toilets.

If you are considering works to your agricultural land, contact Martin Perry Associates for help and guidance. As recommended and trusted chartered surveyors and structural engineers in Cornwall and the South West, we can help with the conversion of buildings, including structural reports and beam design. We are also highly experienced in new build projects for a variety of applications, contact us today on 01597 345777.