Planning Permission for Farm Accommodation – what you need to know

Finding accommodation for staff, or family joining or retiring from a farming business is a common problem. Drawing on a wealth of experience, Jack Denning-James identifies some of the key steps to submitting a successful planning application

Planning Permission for Farm Accommodation – what you need to know

Finding and providing good quality, local accommodation for farm managers, staff, children or retiring parents is a common challenge for farmers across the whole country.

Most planning applications hinge on the demonstration that the farming enterprise could not succeed without it, and that the requirement to be on site is a necessity. Jack Denning-James identifies some of the key steps to submitting a successful application.

Typical Scenarios

We see applications submitted for a variety of reasons, below are some of the most common ones

  • Retiring parent needs new home for son or daughter joining the farming business
  • Poultry manager required to be near to new or existing units
  • Second on site dwelling on livestock farms for farm staff or managers

We have also seen a variety of unusual applications including:

  • Specialist crop manager on a hop farm
  • Staff accommodation at a dog breeding site

Making your case

In order to maximise your chances of a submitting a successful planning application, generally speaking the following four points must be met:

  • Proof of Functional Need – using an agricultural statement, demonstrate why a worker is needed on site 24 hours a day, for most of the year.
  • Proof of Financial Soundness – Business accounts must usually be supplied to show the business has been profitable for at least one in the previous three years.
  • Alternative Accommodation – you must demonstrate no suitable alternative accommodation can be found within a short distance of the farm.
  • Additional Reasoning – extra justification for reasons such as improved security at remote sites can help persuade the council of your case.

Common Issues

  • Sale of Property  - some councils specify that planning for accommodation will not be granted where dwellings belonging to the farm have been sold within a given time leading up to an application, typically the last five to ten years.
  • Seasonal Workers – a requirement to accommodate staff for seasonal work (such as lambing) is not sufficient justification; a worker must be required on site for MOST of a year, certainly for more than six months.
  • Not providing enough evidence – lack of evidence around business accounts and financial planning gives councils an easy route to refusing their decision.

Planning Conditions

If you are successful in your application then councils will typically apply an ‘Agricultural Occupancy Condition’ to the property. This limits the occupation of the property to those currently employed in or retired from an agricultural role.

Similarly, less robust applications can result in approval for a temporary dwelling for three years. This is to give the business additional time to mature and demonstrate it is financial viability.

Alternative Options

All is not lost if you wish to apply for planning permission for accommodation but your circumstances don’t meet the requirements outlined above. An alternative route might be to use Class Q permitted development rights to convert a redundant farm building into additional accommodation. Assuming the relevant criteria are met this can be easier option to take, and our Rural Planning team can discuss this – and other options with you. 

Contact Chris Powell or Jack Denning-James at our Devizes office on 01380 710535, and book an appointment to meet with them during the Free Rural Planning Advice week starting on 6 December 2021.

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