A GOVERNMENT decision to exempt farm buildings in national parks from new liberal planning rules has been met with delight by countryside campaigners.

Planning Minister Nick Boles has confirmed that agricultural structures such as field barns will be excluded from a new planning framework intended to make it easier to convert redundant rural buildings.

The Government had suggested a proposed extension of permitted development rights would be applied throughout England, including national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty.

However, a consultation document on the planning reforms, published last week, included an exemption for these areas, effectively allowing national parks and other authorities to reject such developments.

Peter Charlesworth, chairman of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, said: “We are delighted that the Government has listened to the concerns of England’s national parks and others and has modified its proposals accordingly, allowing national parks to retain local planning control.”

Jon Avison, chairman designate of the Yorkshire Dales Society, said: “We are over the moon that the collaborative work of the society and the national park authority has helped to persuade the Minister to change his mind on this very important policy. It would have had a potentially devastating impact on the landscape and the character of the Yorkshire Dales.”

Steve Ratcliffe, Lake District National Park’s director of sustainable development, said: “Farming is vitally important to the national park and we are very proactive in our work and support of the agricultural community. We support the re-use of redundant farm buildings for appropriate and sustainable purposes and will work with our farming community and others to seek appropriate re-use, including housing for local needs.”

Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron said he was confident his Home on the Farm scheme - which promotes the conversion of redundant farm buildings into family homes - would still be viable, despite the national park exemption.

“I’m pleased that it will stop expensive and exclusive dwellings being built in the national park, but we must make an exception for affordable and social rented housing.

“This change will ensure that we still get Home on the Farm within our national parks.”

Landowners’ pressure group the CLA said the Government consultation on planning reforms was a ‘big step in the right direction’ but it was ‘disappointed’ certain areas of the countryside such as national parks would miss out.