LGA calls for permitted development rights to be scrapped following barn conversion boom

The Local Government Association (LGA) has called for the scrapping of permitted development rights allowing the conversion of buildings to residential use after figures showed a tripling of agricultural to residential conversions under the rules.

According to the LGA, data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government showed that the number of homes created through agricultural to residential permitted development right conversions in England jumped from 226 in 2015/16 to 743 in 2017/18.


The LGA said this means that rural areas are missing out on infrastructure and services that would normally be secured through the full planning application process.


David Renard, the LGA’s planning spokesman, said: "We have concerns over the sharp rise in agricultural buildings being converted into homes without planning permission and the impact this is having on rural areas, given the lack of any requirement for developers to provide infrastructure or contribute to investment in local services such as roads or schools."


He said that permitted development rules are also denying councils and communities and control or oversight of such development.


He called on the government to get rid of such permitted development rights allowing conversion to residential in the forthcoming Queen’s Speech.


The LGA also highlighted data showing councils have witnessed a surge in homes being created out of storage or distribution buildings, with four times as many created last year as three years ago.


The number of homes created through storage to residential conversions across En gland carried out under permitted development jumped from 55 in 2015/16 to 218 in 2017/18, the LGA said.


But responding to the LGA’s call, Fenella Collins, head of planning at the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses, said that such conversions allow rural housing stock to keep up with population changes.


She said that conversions have to conform to building regulations and are not exempt from the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).


"Instead of criticising these conversions," she said, "we should be pleased that farmers and landowners are contributing to the national effort to bridge the housing gap and that these new homes will help to deliver a prosperous rural economy."


In March last year, the government announced an expansion of permitted development rights for barn-to-residential conversions alongside a one-year extension to temporary rules allowing the conversion of storage and distribution uses to housing.


Last year, a survey by the LGA found that nine out of ten councils are concerned about the quality and design of developments created under permitted development rules, and six out of ten raised concerns about safety.


Class Q opinion: As stated by Fenella Collins of the CLA, class Q permitted development rights (PDRs) are delivering rural dwellings as per the intention of the legislation. To criticise the class Q PDRs for the resulting surge in barn conversions is to misunderstand the very purpose for the creation of class Q rights and also fails to consider the much-needed opportunity for farmers to diversify using redundant assets. Whilst it’s unclear whether the LGA comments will have any impact on PDRs in the immediate future, it’s also true that the Labour Party have pledged to repeal all PDRs if they win the keys to 10 Downing St. Hence, we shouldn’t expect PDRs to be around forever andcould disappear sooner rather than later, if you own agricultural buildings that could be converted, now is the time to act.


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