Find your way through the planning permission minefield

Whether you want to build a stable for your horses, tear down an old barn, or turn your milking parlour into a farm shop would you know what planning permission was needed?

Myth-busting the planning rules for farming and agricultural land
Myth-busting the planning rules for farming and agricultural land

Generally there are two types of planning permission, one deals with the use of the property or land, the other deals with the tangible side, called operational development, such as building, mining, or engineering .

It’s not just construction that requires planning, but demolition too! It may not seem obvious but anything which changes the land may well need planning, even structural alterations, even if you are handy enough to do it yourself, if it would normally be carried out by a builder if may need planning. The best course of action is therefore to seek advice regarding your planning needs, prior to commencing, to know where you stand and whether you are able to take advantage of an exemption.

Farming and agriculture

Fortunately for the agricultural community, agriculture general exemptions allowing ‘permitted development’, the criteria for using them is reasonably straightforward the main point being that your farm is five hectares or more. If you meet the criteria you may have the right to erect, extend or alter an agricultural building on agricultural land.

Permitted Development can often assist greatly with diversification projects, as you may also be able to carry out excavations and engineering operations needed for agricultural purposes, there is still a streamlined process to go through prior to making any changes.

It is important to note however that Permitted Development cannot always be used even if the criteria is met, for instance if your property a listed building or located within a conservation area, National Park, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, World Heritage Site or a site of special scientific interest, so if in doubt get some advice.

The process

Even though a planning application may not be needed, you do need to notify the council of your plans. This is called a prior approval application. This is in essence to confirm that there is not a reason why you cannot proceed. It is a short application to the council, who will respond within 56 days, and if they do not then your application is deemed approved and you can proceed.

Horses and stables

Many farms have horses but it is important to be aware that if you want to keep horses on the agricultural land, or build a livery etc, that you need planning permission unless the horses are being used for agriculture. You can graze horses on agricultural land proved that they are not “kept” there (i.e. they are stabled elsewhere and turned out daily to graze).

What if I find I should have had planning?

If you discover you have erred and not obtained planning permission where you should have, or you are not sure - perhaps you are concerned about your farm shop or barn which now sells milk - then it is important to get advice.

The key point to note is that there is a time limit for the council to take action and beyond that limit enforcement cannot be taken. For change of Use to a house or building/demolition works etc this is 4 years. For all other issues (e.g. a breach of a planning condition) it is 10 years

And what of the house that was built hidden behind straw bales? This was a breach of planning and the time limit for enforcement was technically four years from when it was substantially completed. But the courts ruled that substantial completion was the big reveal - when the straw bales were taken away and not when the house was built- and in this case the owner had to knock his masterpiece down, brick by brick.

Enforcement can come in many shapes and sizes, including demanding a building is knocked down, or if it was demolished without permission, it may have to be rebuilt. It is most important to remember any enforcement is at the discretion of the council.

Therefore, if you are in any doubt as to whether you need planning permission, or you should have had planning permission always seek advice.

If in doubt, check it out and contact Wilkin Chapman for expert advice For more details and how to contact them visit their website

It can be a minefield to work your way through planning rules. Wilkin Chapman LLP is the largest law firm in Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire. They provide legal services for businesses and individuals, and their expert Sarah Parker can advise on agricultural development