New permitted development ("PD") rights for agricultural buildings have just come into force. Agricultural buildings can now be converted for residential use, or for use as a state-funded school or registered nursery, without the need for planning permission. However, prior approval from the local planning authority may be required in some cases and it will be necessary to check for any planning conditions or article 4 directions restricting such changes.

To be eligible for conversion under the new PD rights, the agricultural building must have been solely in agricultural use on 20 March 2013 (or, if it was not in use on that date, when it was last in use). If the building was brought into use after 20 March 2013 then it must be solely in agricultural use for ten years prior to any conversion. The building must also be on land that was occupied as a unit for the purposes of agriculture on or before 20 March 2013 or for ten years before the conversion takes place.

The new PD rights are aimed at finding a use for redundant agricultural buildings and are therefore not available if, since 20 March 2013 or within 10 years prior to the intended conversion (whichever is the more recent), a new agricultural building has been erected using PD rights, or an existing agricultural building has been extended/altered using PD rights on the same agricultural unit.

A cumulative maximum of 450 sq m within one agricultural unit can be converted for residential use using the PD rights, providing no more than three separate dwellinghouses. The maximum that can be converted for a school or nursery is 500 sq m.

An application must be made to the local planning authority for a determination as to whether prior approval is required for the conversion in relation to transport/highways impacts, noise impacts, contamination risks, flooding risks, and the location, siting and (in the case of residential conversions) appearance of the building.

The PD rights for residential conversions also cover some of the building operations necessary to convert the building. The PD rights for conversion to a school or nursery do not include building operations so any associated works, which affect more than just the interior of the building, will require planning permission.

Please see the legislation for full details.