Farm Buildings and Planning The planning pitfalls of farm diversification

Post on: 30 Сентябрь, 2015 No Comment

Farm Buildings and Planning The planning pitfalls of farm diversification

Farmers face a number of hurdles when seeking planning permission to diversify their business activities. Owen Pike, head of planning at Sanderson Weatherall, explains how to secure the consent you need.

Many farmers face an uphill struggle trying to ensure their businesses stays economically viable in today’s challenging times.

Growing numbers of cash-strapped farmers are now looking to provide holiday accommodation or recreational activities to boost their incomes, while others are investing in renewable energy in a bid to cut their electricity bills.

But it can be difficult to secure the planning permission you need to diversify your farm business, especially if you are based in a sensitive location such as an area of outstanding natural beauty, the green belt or a national park. And new rules on community consultation for wind developments are likely to make the approvals process even longer for applicants who will face local resistance from the outset.

Holiday housing

A recent high profile example of the problems faced by farmers involved plans for a 20-caravan holiday park on green belt land in West Yorkshire which were blocked by a High Court ruling.

The local council’s decision to grant planning permission for the scheme near Wakefield was challenged by a neighbouring landowner. The applicants had argued the plans would bring a much-needed boost to tourism in the area and they were justified by the need to diversify the family farm.

But a judge ruled the council had given inadequate reasons for its decision and overturned the planning permission. He cast doubt on whether it had properly understood the “very special circumstances” test which had to be passed before approval for such a development could be granted.


So what exactly do farmers need to do in order to satisfy this test and secure the planning permission they need and what are the other planning issues you need to consider?

The problem for applicants is, while one authority may accept your need to diversify as a good enough reason to grant permission, others might not.

There is no set criteria to demonstrate “very special circumstances” and the onus is on you as the applicant to convince the decision-makers of your need to develop.

One way to demonstrate this is to provide compelling evidence of the economic necessity of development to the future viability of your farm.

In fact, this should form a central part of your planning application, whether you are seeking to convert a redundant barn or build a solar farm in the green belt. If you are looking to provide caravan accommodation, for example, your evidence needs to be as robust as possible and show how essential the development is, not just to you but also to the future economic well-being of the local area.

This means showing how growing visitor demand is driving the need for expansion and the economic benefits this will bring to you, the people you employ and the local economy.

Planning tips to consider when applying for holiday accomodation :

  • Planning authorities look favourably upon holiday accommodation plans to reuse existing farm buildings which are underused or dilapidated. As such it is important to show how your development will improve the appearance of your land and get rid of an eyesore
  • Some of these conversions to agricultural buildings are now considered to be permitted development, so check with your local planning authority at the outset
  • Structures which are isolated are less likely to be approved for redevelopment so any application for holiday accommodation planning should ideally involve buildings which sit within a group of farm structures, close to where you live
  • Keep any external changes to a minimum in order to retain the building’s character and appearance
  • You may not need planning permission for limited caravan, camping or bed and breakfast accommodation. But check with your local authority first

Renewable energy

Plans to give communities a greater say over wind turbine proposals could make it more difficult — and expensive — to secure planning permission, particularly for smaller renewable energy schemes.

In England, new legislation now makes early consultation between local people and wind farm developers compulsory. It is likely Wales could follow suit in due course.

Applicants seeking planning permission for more than two turbines — or any turbine which exceeds 15 metres in height — would need to consult the local community before submitting a formal planning application.

Tips to consider when applying for renewable energy planning permission:

  • Write to local residents and parish councillors outlining your plans and explain the necessity of your scheme
  • Your letter and eventual planning application should address as many potential concerns as possible, especially those regarding the visual impact, noise and ecology of the project
  • Consider holding a small public exhibition in your village hall to display your plans and discuss any issues which local people may have. Concerns about visual impact, for example, can often be addressed with thoughtful landscaping and positioning
  • Carry out a thorough planning appraisal of your site prior to submitting an application. This should determine its suitability in relation to noise, impact on ecology, landscape designation, heritage assets and any potential radar interference
  • Check there is a suitable grid connection and capacity with your local power company, then establish how much it will cost to connect your wind or solar scheme
  • Planners will look more favourably on solar applications in fields classed as low grade agricultural land (Grade 3b, 4 or 5), so double check field grades

Recreational activities

While most development in sensitive areas is considered to be inappropriate, some outdoor pursuits such as horse riding, quad biking and paintballing are looked upon more favourably.

Equestrian proposals in particular offer a viable diversification opportunity as farms have ready access to land for grazing and exercise. Bear in mind, however, keeping horses on agricultural land or in agricultural buildings may involve a change of use which requires planning permission.

Tips to consider when applying for recreational activities:

Here your chance to leave a comment!