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Appeal wins shepherd’s right to watch flock

Three years ago the National Planning Policy Framework (The NPPF) replaced most of the previous planning policy statements and guidance.  PPS7 which was the previous guidance for planning in the countryside contained four pages on guidance relating to tied dwellings for forestry or agriculture.  The new guidance is condensed to one paragraph of which only two lines relate to tied dwellings.

You may imagine that the simplified guidance would lead to a simplified planning process, this is not our experience. Despite the change in National Planning Guidance three years ago, some Local Planning Authorities are still resisting applications for new agricultural workers dwellings on unjustified grounds. 

In a recent case we were involved in, the Local Planning Authority refused a new agricultural workers dwelling on a 400 acre farm on the basis that the main enterprise was a sheep flock of 1,100 sheep and that a full time dwelling was not required.  The Council justified their decision on the basis that a full time presence was only required during lambing and that a farm manager could live in a caravan on the farm during the busy lambing period at springtime. 

Happily, we were able to demonstrate at a Planning Appeal that the Council’s approach was unjustified and that a full time dwelling was required.   The Planning Inspector, having heard arguments from both sides, agreed with me and allowed the appeal.   Whilst this decision was obviously welcomed, it is frustrating. There should not have been the need to go to appeal if the Council had not sought to apply a blanket policy “that sheep only farms do not need a permanent dwelling,” without looking at the individual facts of the case.

It is not just the NPPF which has tried to simplify the planning process.   Permitted Development Rights now allow the conversion of agricultural buildings to residential and other various uses or the conversion of offices to residential.  However, on the conversion of agricultural buildings to residential use we are seeing different approaches being taking by various Local Planning Authorities but generally these rights are helping speed up decisions as these must be made within 56 days unlike a planning application.

As an aside, looking back at statistics, ten years ago nationally 83% of applications were approved compared to last year where 88% were approved.  This would suggest simplification is working, it just does not feel like it all the time! Justin Stevenson planning consultant and associate partner with Balfours Property Professionals, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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