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'Clarkson's Clause': New Permitted Development Rights for Agricultural Buildings

Updated: Jun 24


Barn
Historic farmsteads now subject to updated permitted development rights for agricultural buildings

On the 21st of May 2024, the government launched new permitted development rights for the owners of agricultural buildings under an amendment order of the Town and Country Planning legislation for general permitted development. This specifically aimed to update clauses relevant to Class Q and Class R developments. Class Q relates specifically to dwellinghouses, whilst class R refers to flexible commercial uses. As a result of these amendments, farmers are no longer required to submit planning applications for specific types of development on their farms. The updates concerned constructing new buildings, as well as both extending and converting existing structures. One of the primary goals of these amendments was to make it easier for farm owners to provide new uses for their buildings, including opportunities to diversify their income streams - something which is becoming increasingly essential to support the livelihood and wellbeing of British farming communities. The primary changes which have been implemented include:


  • Increased size of new dwellings which are able to be erected under permitted development rights

  • Increased floorspace allowance for the conversion of structures into domestic use

  • Reduced restrictions on the change the use of agricultural buildings, with more uses now included under permitted development rights


What does this mean for me?

An article by DEFRA has usefully broken down the key changes introduced to these permitted development rights, highlighting the key advantages that this will bring for farm owners. Key changes include:

  • Increased floorspace: Amount of floorspace that can change from agricultural use to ‘flexible commercial use’ will increase from 500 to 1,000 square metres, whilst the allowance for a change from agricultural to domestic use will increase from 865 to 1,000 square metres.

  • Scope of 'flexible commercial use' increased: This will now include provisions for the processing of goods (excluding livestock), agricultural training, and outdoor sports / recreational activities.

  • Extension allowance increased: Ground area limit of new structures or extensions increased from 1,000 to 1,500 square metres (farms over 5 HA), and from 1,000 to 12500 (farms under 5 HA).

  • Domestic floorspace allowance increased: A single maximum floorspace limit of 150 square metres per house has been implemented. The maximum number of homes allowed for change of use within a single site has also increased from 5 to 10, with a maximum total floorspace of 1000 square metres now implemented.


What restrictions are still in place?

However, it is worthy of note that certain policies do not apply in protected landscapes. Clauses relating to extensions and the erection of new buildings above scheduled monuments has also been directly removed from the wording of the policy to ensure further protection for these archaeological features. The new policies will also not apply for Listed Buildings, which are subject to national protection which effectively removes a majority of permitted development rights from the owner. Even where planning applications are no longer required for certain farmstead developments, farm owners must still consult with their local planning authority to seek approval for associated issues, such as traffic management and flood mitigation.


What brought about the change?

jeremy clarkson
Diddly Squat Farm Shop - an influence to the so-called 'Clarkson's Clause'

The reforms to these permitted development rights were based upon a consultation undertaken between July - September 2023 by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) which aimed to identify areas of the current legislation which could adopt increased flexibility for agricultural buildings. This took into account the views of 977 respondents to the study on how desirable these reforms would be to the agricultural community.


National awareness of financial hardship in the agricultural sector has recently been highlighted by a television series starring Jeremy Clarkson titled 'Clarkson's Farm'. This Amazon Prime series has served as an effective tool to raise awareness for the need for farmers to diversify their income streams to ensure their survival. Season 2 featured what has been labelled a 'planning war' between Diddly Squat Farm and the West Oxfordshire District Council, following his conversion of a barn in Chipping Norton into a restaurant without permission. Clarkson was subsequently served an enforcement notice and forced to close the restaurant, despite its success at both finding a new use for the barn and providing essential income streams for the livelihood of Diddly Squat Farm. One of the reasons for this decision was the positioning of the site in one of England's 'National Landscapes' - formerly known as an 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty' (AONB). Consequently, the commercial use of the landscape was perceived to be at odds with its original agricultural character.


farm cafe
Diddly Squat Cafe inside the lambing shed, and burger van

Season 3 saw Diddly Squat Farm encountering further planning issues centred around the farm shop, together with its associated provision of adequate lavatory facilities, a gravelled car-park on site to address traffic and parking issues, and a 'burger van' selling his farmed meat in the form of hot takeaway food - something which Clarkson has highlighted as being one of the only ways to ensure his livestock make a profit. However, Clarkson's appeal was branded as successful, and the use of the land was approved as 'mixed use' to allow for such facilities on site. The publicity of this case has led many to brand the new planning laws as 'Clarkson's Cause', especially considering how Britain's Prime Minister featured on the latest edition of the series to discuss problems facing Britain's agricultural communities. However, Diddly Squat Farm will be unable to utilise these new permitted development rights to pursue the reopening of the original restaurant - especially considering its location within a designated National Landscape. The result of Clarkson's appeal is also more complex than initially portrayed, given the complexity of the conditions and issues at hand. Notable is that only part of the appeal was successful, and that permission for the 'mixed use' was only granted for a period of 36 months. Read more about the appeal on the public access casework portal. Nevertheless, the show has ultimately been a success at highlighting both the rigorous and subjective processes involved in British planning, and the hardship facing agricultural communities in the 21st century.

 

At Blue Willow Heritage, we provide expert advice on planning, the historic environment and conservation works to historic buildings. If you need support managing your historic farm buildings, then Blue Willow Heritage can help! If you would like to discuss your project or simply need some impartial, no-obligation advice, then please do not hesitate to get in touch.


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