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Government Response to Rural Planning Review

Government response to Rural Planning Review Call for Evidence and new consultation on extending the thresholds for agricultural permitted development rights

In February 2016, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) opened a rural planning review. The call for evidence invited views about the effectiveness of the current planning system in rural areas and improvements that could be made. The call for evidence closed on 21 April 2016 and asked participants questions about their experiences of various aspects of the current planning system.
The government’s response to the Call for Evidence was published on 7 February 2017 and is divided into three areas:
• Rural development and agricultural permitted development rights.
• Rural housing and the use of agricultural buildings for residential purposes.
• Other issues.
In relation to rural development and agricultural permitted development rights issues raised by respondents included:
• On farm shops, the main issues related to unreasonable planning conditions such as a high percentage of home grown produce being placed on the sale of goods and opening hours excluding weekends and Bank Holidays.
• On polytunnels, the main issues were planning professionals not giving sufficient weight to the importance of polytunnels for protection, production of high quality produce and the extension of the growing seasons to meet customer demand for home grown produce. Other respondents were concerned about the visual and environmental effect of polytunnels.
• On-farm reservoirs were also subject to a range of views, some thought that existing permitted development rights were sufficient, others that they should be granted specific permitted development rights. It was also noted that climate change and policy changes would lead to more pressure to store water.
As a result of these responses, the government is consulting on extending the thresholds for agricultural permitted development rights; this is to support more flexibility in adapting to changing markets and technology and to further support farming efficiency and productivity.
The government is asking whether the thresholds set out in Class A, Part 6 of Schedule 2 to the GPDO 2015 should be amended and, if so:
• What would be appropriate thresholds including size and height?
• What prior approvals or further conditions would be required?
• Are there any other changes in relation to the thresholds that should be considered?
In relation to issues raised concerning farm shops, polytunnels and on-farm reservoirs, the government proposes to amend guidance to make it clear that:
• Planning conditions on farm shops should be reasonable and proportionate.
• Appropriate weight should be given to the agricultural requirements of proposed polytunnels.
• On-farm reservoirs should be considered in the context of the increased drive for more water storage and that the disposal of excavated waste was an acceptable by-product.
As to rural housing and the use of agricultural buildings for residential purposes, many respondents raised the issue of rural housing and the need to increase its supply.  Chapter 1 of the Housing White Paper: Fixing our broken housing market describes how the government is taking forward measures on increasing housing supply. These measures include amending the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to maximising the use of small sites, which are often more appropriate in a rural setting and supporting villages.
To further support delivery of rural homes for rural workers, the government is consulting on a new agricultural to residential use permitted development right. It is proposed that this would allow for the conversion of up to 750 square metres, for a maximum of five new dwellings, each with a floor space of no more than 150 square metres.
The government is also proposing amendments to class Q permitted development rights to increase the existing threshold from 450 square metres to 465 square metres to bring it in line with the current permitted development right threshold for agricultural development.
The government is consulting on whether this proposal will create more homes for rural workers and, if so:
• How should the right be framed to best ensure homes are available to meet local needs?
• Should the new right have similar conditions to the existing Class Q right?
The government will also revise planning practice guidance to clarify for applicants and local planning authorities (LPAs) what constitutes building operations reasonably necessary to convert the agricultural building to residential use within the existing permitted development right.
The government highlights two issues that respondents raised concern about:
• Lack of understanding of rural planning issues. For example, the need for local planning authorities (LPAs) to consider how sustainability was different in rural areas to urban areas and to give appropriate weight to the need for some agricultural workers to live near their livestock.
• Under-resourcing of LPAs.
Chapter 2 of the Housing White Paper explains how the government intends to address this, including an increase in nationally set planning application fees.
Source: DCLG: Consultation outcome: Rural planning review: call for evidence (7 February 2017).
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