Farmers looking to maximise the value of their farms as a buffer against Brexit are being stymied by stringently applied planning regulations.
That’s according to Bruton Knowles’ Town Planner Paul Barton, who said with loss of subsidies looming farmers needed to be given every opportunity to maximise their assets – up to and including re-developing surplus farm buildings.
“But farmers around Stroud looking to use Permitted Development Rights to develop agricultural buildings are being given short shrift by planners - with many schemes being thrown out at the first hurdle.”
Stroud District Council has been found to approve amongst the lowest number of permitted development conversions in the country – with just a quarter of applications approved - placing it fifth in a table of the least receptive councils to permitted development schemes.
Paul Barton is based at the firm’s Gloucester office and closely monitors development patterns in and around the county’s towns and villages.
He said: “While the area is dotted with suitable buildings the permitted development route does not appear to be favoured by planning officers.
“This, combined with some very restrictive local plan policies regarding barn conversions, means that the Government’s general policy support for the appropriate conversion of agricultural buildings is simply not happening in the district.”
He added: “There is a clear shortage of housing in across the country and plenty of opportunities do something about this by converting suitable outbuildings.
“There were high hopes PDR would help farmers steer around excessive red tape but evidence suggests this is proving difficult, especially in the Stroud District Council area.
“Although it is three years’ since the Government extended Permitted Development Rights to agricultural buildings land owners have faced a range of hurdles, initially regarding the sustainable locations of barns, whereas the main point of conflict now appears to centre on whether the buildings works are so significant that a conversion is considered tantamount to a new building in the countryside.
“As always, owners, developers or lifestyle buyers looking for a dream move to the country should obtain the latest advice in order to achieve a successful permission."
Paul Barton said there was a possibility that Stroud District Council’s policy could change, as the council is currently consulting on a review of its Local Plan.
The council’s Issue and Options paper is open for consultation until December 5.
“As well at putting sites forward for development, landowners with agricultural buildings are encouraged to engage with the local plan review to explain the difficulties which the current conversion policies place upon them.”