Residential property
22 Oct 2020 News

Permitted Development Article Scottish Government Review of Agricultural Permitted Development

The Scottish Government is currently undertaking a review of ‘Permitted Development Rights’ (“PDR”) that are in place in Scotland. Permitted development allows certain development to take place without the need for full planning permission. The main source of this deemed planning permission is contained within the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Order 1992.

The Scottish Government is consulting (until 12 November 2020) on a proposed extension to permitted development relating to agricultural land, including proposals to allow conversion of agricultural buildings to residential and commercial uses under PDR. A summary of the proposals is presented below.

Conversion of buildings to residential and commercial use

The agricultural PDRs are contained within class 18 of the Permitted Development Order. The proposals would amend the existing PDRs with the intention of:

  • Increasing the scale of agricultural buildings that may be erected or extended under PDR; and
  • Allowing the conversion of agricultural buildings to residential and other uses under PDR.

It is also proposed that additional guidance will be provided on the planning status of polytunnels.

One of the more significant proposals is to allow certain conversion of agricultural buildings to residential use. At the moment, changing a building in this way would be a material change of use of the land constituting development and would require planning permission. The proposed permitted development right would allow:

  • Change of use of an agricultural building (and any land within its curtilage) to one or more dwellings (houses or flats); and
  • The reasonable building operations necessary to convert the building to a dwelling (or dwellings).

Various aspects of the development would require prior approval of the planning authority before development could commence, including design and external appearance (if building operations are proposed), the provision of natural light within proposed habitable rooms, transport and access, flood risk, contamination risks, and noise.

Conditions could be imposed by the planning authority to mitigate impacts of the development. This would go beyond the scope of any other prior approval procedure currently in place for permitted development in Scotland, however it would still be a simpler process than a full planning application. 

The proposals include limits on the number and size of dwellings that could be converted within an agricultural unit. A maximum of five dwellings per agricultural unit is suggested and there would be a limit on the size of each home to a maximum floor space of 150 square metres, which is broadly equivalent to a 3 or 4 bedroom home.

There are proposed restrictions to prevent “gaming” of the system, by restricting the PDR to buildings that were used for the purposes of agriculture:

  • On or before 5 November 2019; or
  • In the case of buildings brought into use after that date, for a continuous period of ten years prior to the conversion taking place.

The new agricultural PDRs also would not permit the erection of a new building where a residential conversion has taken place on the same farm within the preceding 10 years. Together, these restrictions are intended to prevent agricultural buildings being erected solely for the purpose of conversion.

There are similar proposals to grant PDRs to allow conversion of agricultural buildings (and land within its curtilage) for commercial purposes and would include shops, financial, professional and other services, food and drink, business, storage or distribution, as well as museums, galleries, places of worship, halls, nurseries and educational use. The total cumulative floor space of a building to be converted would not be able to exceed 500 square metres within an agricultural unit. These are subject to similar requirements for prior approval by the planning authority and would be restricted by the same “gaming” provisions.

These proposed changes are intended to help support agricultural development and diversification, as well as the delivery of new homes in rural areas and are considered by the Government to be an important part of the recovery in rural areas from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The consultation is open until 12 November 2020 and it is expected that regulations giving effect to the proposals will be published in December 2020.

Full details of the consultation and how to respond are available here

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