NEW permitted development (PD) rights could prove to be a double-edged sword for farmers, a South Lakes-based planning expert has warned.

While the rights may have removed one element of planning difficulty for farms, they have delivered another of a different kind of problem said rural surveyor Oliver Bateman.

Farmers and rural land owners who use the new PD rights to convert certain buildings into up to three homes should be aware that it could stifle other farm development for the next decade, said Mr Bateman, of Carter Jonas in Kendal.

Converting existing buildings into residential units under the changed rules because they are unsuitable for current farming needs would remove for a decade the PD rights traditionally enjoyed on farms to put up structures such as barns, he warned.

“It’s natural to think that the new rights will release buildings for new uses but exercising these rights must be balanced against the future needs of the farm,” said Mr Bateman.

“Planning ahead for possible business changes on the farm will be critical before any decision to convert existing buildings is made. This is because they cannot then be replaced with anything more suitable via agricultural PD rights, although a scheme may be successful via a full planning application.

“While converting a building into a new home of up to 450 square metres seems attractive, especially when it allows retiring owners to continue to live on the farm after handing over the enterprise to the next generation, the business could be constrained from moving forward as a result.

“My advice is to assess farms and estates for potential development sites, including taking account of the new rights, and then select carefully the best route for each opportunity.

“This is a live issue on a number of estates. The legislation is not clear as it does not define the agricultural holding when using the PD rights; so converting a building using PD rights could seriously inhibit the prospects of developing other parts of the business. This is becoming a concern and preventing landowners from doing what on face value the Government was trying to encourage.”