FARMERS with redundant buildings are on track to gain the rights to convert them for residential use.

Following a national consultation, planning minister Nick Boles has announced that from April 1 farmers will be granted permitted development rights to convert redundant farm buildings of up to 450 sq m to create up to three residential units.

Christopher D’Olley, a Basingstoke-based partner at property consultancy Carter Jonas, believes the farming community will broadly welcome the initiative although there are exclusions from automatic development rights for certain classes of buildings, including those in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and within National Parks.

“There have been objections to permitted development rights and some pressure groups such as the CPRE have come out against blanket permission as it could allow speculative development,” said Mr. D’Olley.

“The change gives farmers and landowners potential alternative income sources or opportunities to release capital from disposals to develop and diversify their rural business coupled with the possibility of rural employment generation.

“To date, the planning system has been frighteningly expensive, long-winded, and difficult to negotiate, which puts off many farmers before they even start to consider sustainability issues in their local economy or environment.

“This simpler route into assessing a building’s potential for residential use should provide a much more flexible and sensible system.

“Alongside the associated commercial permitted development rights brought in last year this will allow farmers to properly consider the application of capital within their businesses.

“There are also clear personal advantages for many farming families in being able to change the use of buildings that no longer fit modern farming practice.

“While there has been concern about speculative converting old buildings in beautiful places it would be hard to deny them permission, even in sensitive areas, when the conversion allows family members to stay connected with the farm as it passes down the generations.

“There are strict rules for inheritance tax purposes about where the person running the farm lives and this makes some older farmers reluctant to retire as it can mean they have to leave the farmhouse.

“This transition could be far easier if they only move across the farmyard or down the lane to a redundant building they have converted. It could be a powerful argument for approval and succession within a business even in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or National Parks. Planning experts within the Carter Jonas team will be able to offer suitable advice.”

Carter Jonas, which has an office in London Street, Basingstoke, is a multi-disciplined property consultancy with a network of offices across England and Wales. The firm employs more than 550 partners and staff and advises on all aspects of residential, rural and commercial property.

As well as residential and commercial agency, the firm specialises in rural land management and professional services such as planning, architecture and building consultancy, renewable energy and mineral and waste management.