NPPF 'could boost rural housing'

Seemingly minor changes to the national planning policy framework could have big rural benefits, says an expert.

They mean farmers could play an increasingly important role in the provision of rural housing.

"There are two small changes in the recent draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which may have significant benefits for the rural sector, said Ian Smith, director at Cheffins planning and development team.

"These could easily be overlooked given the main headline-grabbing aspects of the revised policies, however for the everyday farmer or landowner, these two points could be an important benefit."

    See also: Major overhaul of national planning rules

First, said Mr Smith, there was a new addition to the circumstances where agricultural worker dwellings may be given planning permission.

The rural housing section says that 'planning policies and decisions should avoid the development of isolated homes in the countryside' unless they are for 'those taking majority control of a farm business'.

"While this may not sound earth-shattering, it would allow for the provision of homes for farm owners who are looking to retire being able to build themselves a home on the farm.

"Or, in another scenario, a son or daughter taking over the farm from retiring parents now has a case for a new farm dwelling.

"No such criteria apply at present and currently circumstances are governed by the needs of the holding and the need for permanent accommodation on site.

    Sensible and pragmatic

"This is a sensible and pragmatic change which would be of benefit for many landowners at varying stages of their careers."

Any such new dwellings would be subject to standard agricultural occupancy ties, said Mr Smith.

But the retiring or aspiring farmer would comply with such a tie.

This would allow a retiring couple to move into a new farm dwelling and the incoming 'controller' to occupy what may be the long standing larger family farmhouse, and vice versa.

"This change will be welcomed by many in the farming sector," said Mr Smith.

There is another new category which has been added to the list of exceptions whereby isolated homes may be allowed.

These are developments which would involve the 'subdivision of an existing residential property.'

    Open countryside

Traditionally, planning authorities have resisted such developments because they would be tantamount to the creation of a new house in open countryside, said Mr Smith.

"This is a positive change and may be applicable to large rural farm or estate dwellings which are hard to let or to larger rural dwellings which have scope for subdivision into a number of apartments.

"This ought to help to contribute to the supply of smaller homes in rural areas and will be welcomed, particularly for those lumbered with large, traditional farm or estate homes which would benefit from subdivision.

"This also would bring with it another element of diversification for farmers and landowners."

    Development rights

In a separate legislative change, the government has stated that it is to double the size of farm buildings under permitted development rights from the current limit of 465m² to 1,000m².

Such developments will still be subject to the prior approval procedure but this increase in scale is a sensible change.

Overall, these are some welcome and positive changes for the farming sectors and could play a small, but important role in the provision of rural housing, said Mr Smith.

The NPPF proposals are subject to consultation but these be fully-agreed and operational later this year.


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