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Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Planning for the future: have rural developers been given a free rein?

On 6 April 2014 new planning rules come into force which will allow developers to make certain changes of use without the need to jump through the hoops of obtaining full planning permission. Under the new rules, impressively named the Town and County Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment and Consequential Provisions) (England) Order 2014, a “fast-track” system is introduced making it quicker and cheaper to develop in these areas.

Which changes of use will be affected?

The changes of use which will benefit from this new, relaxed system are known as “permitted developments” and will include:

·       allowing agricultural buildings to become schools or nurseries;

·       allowing agricultural buildings to be used for residential purposes; 

·       allowing a shop to become a bank, building society or credit union;

·       allowing a shop or building used for provision of financial or professional support to become  used for residential purposes.

From the list it is clear that the rules focus on the conversion of agricultural and commercial buildings into residential dwellings and supporting facilities, no doubt to help meet the ever increasing demand for housing and boost economic growth in rural areas. As such, the rules offer farmers and owners of commercial premises the opportunity to diversify and change the use of buildings which may not at present be providing much, if any, return.

How does the new system work?

If the change of use is a permitted development the developer does not need to go through the rigmarole of obtaining full planning permission from the local planning authority because it cannot, as a matter of principle, object to the change of use. That said, an application will still need to be made to the planning authority before any works start.