Make the most of planning rules with our ‘5 Top Tips’

Over the last few years the government has repeated commitments to supporting the rural economy and to increasing the availability of housing nationally.

Recent governments have pushed forward planning policy which continues to provide potential opportunities to farmers and landowners. Despite the mixed results of this policy, it is clear from the government that it intends to support sustainable development in the countryside.

However, despite policy changes mooted or enacted, existing policy and legislation does offer the possibility for farmers and landowners to undertake development, conversions and allow alternative use of land under permitted development rights without the requirement for full planning permission to be sought.

Our ‘5 Top Tips’ remind you of policy and regulations allowing you to make the most of your property, without the necessity of a full planning application.

1.  General Permitted Development Rights.

On 6th April 2018 The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development (England) (Amendment) Order 2018 brought in several changes further to the General Permitted Development Order of 2015. Recent changes to rights for conversion of agricultural building to residential use (discussed below) have attracted most headlines, but other opportunists do exist under these regulations.

Class R – Agricultural to Business use

Often overlooked permitted development under Class R – ‘Conversions to ‘Flexible Business Uses’ can offer exciting opportunities to farmers and landowners meeting the criteria.

These rights allow for change of use of agricultural buildings to commercial use under the relevant use classes, which include: shops, restaurants, cafes, business, storage, distribution, assembly and leisure.  

As with Class Q below, restrictions apply. Two key restrictions are that the building in question needs to have been in agricultural use on 3rd July 2012, and its floor area does not exceed 500 sqm.

Where opportunities for residential development can be more limited and/ or rural businesses wish to explore alternative income streams, permitted development under Class R is a useful option to investigate.

Class P – Storage use to Residential Use

Permitted Development under Class P – ‘Class B8 (storage or distribution centre) use to Class C3 (dwellinghouses)’ offers the ability for those qualifying to convert existing storage and distribution buildings to residential use. With many farmers and landowners having such permitted uses on their property, this avenue can allow the conversion of buildings to residential use, where other criteria may not be met. Changes brought in in April 2018 include the extension of this permitted right until 10th June 2019.

2.  Permitted Development under Class Q Agricultural Use to Residential Use

Most notable under the changes to Permitted Development have been previous and more recent changes to the much publicised rights under Class Q - ‘Use as an agricultural building to a use falling within Class C3 (dwellinghouses)’.

Under these permitted rights, qualifying farm buildings can be converted to residential use where they meet the required criteria. Amendments brought in April 2018 have provided further scope for such conversions.

The amended order allows an increase in the size of the permitted development to 465 sqm, from the 450 sqm previously allowed and the number of homes to be provided up to 5 from 3.

This permitted development continues to allow the creation of residential dwellings in areas that would previously have had little chance of obtaining planning permission for the development of residential dwellings.

3.  Permitted Development to your home.

Not all works require planning permission and knowing your rights can allow the improvement, enlargement or development of a dwelling without the necessity of seeking full planning permission.

Aside from those developments where such rights have been restricted or which are specifically excluded under the regulations, detached properties can be extended up to 70 cubic metres or 15% of the original dwelling, whichever is the greater (up to a limit of 115 cubic metres). No development or alteration being allowed to exceed in height the highest part of the roof of the original dwelling.

Other restrictions relating to the size of the site and location of public highways etc can further restrict such development. However, this right is an effective and simple option to alter or enlarge a residential house.

4.  The ‘28 Day Rule’

Landowners are afforded the ability to use their land for alternative uses, which is not within the curtilage of a dwelling, without the need for planning permission, for up to 28 days in total in any calendar year. Such uses are limited to 14 days where they include use of a site for the holding of a market, motor car and motorcycle racing including trials of speed and practising for these activities.

These regulations permit the use of appropriate land offering diversification opportunities to farmers and landowners.

“It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission” Rear Admiral Grace Murray

5.  CLEUD - Certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development.

Outside of permitted rights are those regulations which deal with historic and ongoing breaches of planning.

Whether you are considering a future sale of your property or hoping to avoid planning enforcement in the future, a Certificate of Lawful Use or Development (CLEUD) can help to avoid future complications, issues and needless worries.

A Certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development is a legal document, not a planning permission, issued by a Local Planning Authority.  It is used to regularise either a breach of planning policy or conditions and unauthorised development.

Once issued, a Certificate establishes that an existing use, or activity, is lawful and that enforcement action cannot be taken.

The length of a use, development or breach is the key consideration in assessing eligibility for a CLEUD.

Minimum time periods apply as follows:

  • 4 years for material change of use of a building, or part, to use as a single dwelling house.
  • 4 years for operational development (which includes the construction of new buildings)
  • 10 years for all other development, including change of use or breach of planning conditions

Unlike a planning application, obtaining a Certificate depends entirely on factual evidence, with the applicant required to provide evidence to show the development complies with the minimum time periods.  The use or development cannot be deliberately concealed, or breach other legal requirements, such as building regulations or the Planning of (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. 

If you wish to secure a current and long-term change of use or development, a CLEUD offers a sensible option to avoid difficulties in the future.

Each of our tips could provide scope for development, providing additional income and value to farms, landholdings and estates and furthermore protection for planning breaches.

Have further queries? Jonathan Malings of Butler Sherborn would be happy to discuss any planning requirements or opportunities in confidence and without obligation.  

Rural Surveyor

01285 883740






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Mrs Tucker June 2020

I have been seriously impressed with your team at Butler Sherborn. Karen and Vanessa have been incredibly helpful and efficient, so huge thanks from me.
— Mrs Tucker, June 2020